Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CBE vs BA 100

Possibly due to the holiday and the fact I live in a college town, last night's Columbia Beer Enthusiast gathering at Sycamore was somewhat small. This was surprising in that the tasting involved only beers on Beer Advocate's top 100 list(s). Granted, the list at BA is lacking a few great beers, but overall it is pretty solid from top to bottom.

The list is fluid as beers are rated daily. One of the beers I brought (Hoppin' Frog's B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal Stout) was ranked at 99 on the American list as of last night, but it did spend time off the list last week. Thankfully, no one minded having to drink such a lowly beer.

I'll detail what we drank below. We started with the lowest ranking beer and moved down the list. I'm not that concerned with rankings. You can look those up if you wish. Here's what we drank...

My contribution to the evening's collection of beers.

Hoppin' Frog's
B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal Stout - This was a great place to begin. Someone pointed out that it was too sweet and could stand to age. I love a beer that's very drinkable but you can tell that it will only get better with age, like many beers on this list.

Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter - Too bad this beer was sandwiched between two mammoth imperial stouts. It was a good porter nonetheless. Great Lakes doesn't blow me away, but they always make a solid brew.

Old Rasputin Russian XII - This was as good as I remembered it from the summer: boozy, a touch of cola, so good.

Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout - This one was up for debate. Sanford (of Sycamore) tapped a a keg of this beer (supposedly). Many thought it tasted more like the regular Yeti. I thought it didn't taste like either. I thought I tasted some funk, but I could be wrong. I certainly would finish a pint if you ordered it for me.

Stone Ruination IPA - This was the beer that exposed me to the wonders of craft brewing, my gateway beer. It's always so good. Either because of some aging or the fact that we jut polished off some pretty intense stouts, this one was mellower than usual. No complaints though.

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy - This is a great imperial stout that brings the bitter better than most and is mellower in a can than the syrup usually found in a imperial stout bottle.

Duvel - Spicy...and I think it was skunked. The bottle said that it was pretty new, but it tasted off. Some guys were polite, but I thought it was a case of a bad bottle. I'm pretty sure Duvel didn't taste this way to me before.

Boulevard Saison Brett - It's nice that a MO beer made the list and the tasting. This beer is so much better done than the other saisons I've had over the past couple of years. Sometimes it's hard to believe that it comes from here.

Bear Republic Hot Rod Rye - I love the balance and hop presence of this beer. That said, I'm sort of surprised that it's on this list and so high (40's-50's). It's good, but there aren't beers more deserving than this? Maybe it's such a good representation of the style that it rates high. I've noticed that a lot of brews that defy classification do not make appearances on either top-100 list.

New Glarus Raspberry Tart - What a great way to cleanse the pallet near the mid-point of the tasting. This beer was sweet and not as tart as expected, but it really did the trick. I used to proclaim that I didn't like fruity beers, but I think I'm beginning to sound like all those beer novices who say they don't like hoppy beers. They usually just have to find the right one.

New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red - OK. Two fruity beers from New Glarus in a row? My palet was ready to bring back the malt and hop at this point. Again, this was another excellent fruit beer I didn't expect.

Surly Furious - Simcoe. That ammonia/grapefruit aroma and flavor you sometimes get from your favorite beer? That's simcoe. This beer comes correct with it. Furious indeed.

St. Bernardus 12 - This is my Thanksgiving beer. Give me malt, spice, coffee(?), and a touch of funk to match my smoked turkey. I was more than happy to get started on the week's festivities early with this one.

Russian River Consecration - Wine drinkers can suck it! This beer is pretty awesome. However, I have two problems with Russian River. First, this is a finely crafted beer with even finer artwork on the labels. Why be so lazy as to cover said label with comic sans? COMIC SANS!!! Second, these beers are too pricey. This 750 mL bottle was $25 and the next 12 oz.(?) bottle below was in the $13 range. Why pay those prices when you can get a bomber of New Belgium's La Folie at Arena for the same as Temptation?

Russian River Temptation - Now that I'm done bashing Russian River, I should write about the beer. Consecration and Temptation are two of the most balanced sour beers one can find (if you can find it). This one is more sour than the first, but it's wine in a beer glass. I mean that in a good way.

Founders Breakfast Stout - This beer is pure coffee, but it's done well. The day this became available in MO was the day this place became a little less miserable.

Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA - Mangoes are my favorite fruit. Why wouldn't you want a beer that taste like mangoes?

Stone Russian Imperial Stout - This is the mother-ship of all Russian imperials. Interesting how much Stone is consumed in our little beer community despite their refusal to distribute here. I'm not sure they have to legally sell in Missouri. We all are too willing to ship their beer or drive to every corner in order fill that gap in our cellars. Either way, this is always welcome at the table.

Bell's Hopslam - I now have a new appreciation for Hopslam. I was always convinced that it needed to be consumed ASAP in order to enjoy the freshness of the hops. The fear is that the hoppiness will fade with time, leaving the beer undrinkable - especially at $19 a sixer. Last night proved me wrong. One of the beers shared last night was cellared and the other was kept in the fridge for the past nine or ten months. I was lucky enough to swipe a sample of each. The cellared beer was very mellow, like a light barley wine. The cold bottle was able to hold onto quite a bit of the grapefruit present in a fresh bottle, but it too was mellower. I will definitely do my best to save a six-pack the next time Hopslam hits town.

Rochefort 10 - "Always good; malty." That's all I had written at this point in the tasting. I think you'll understand why.

Alesmith Speedway Stout - I wasn't sure about this one at first, but it grew on me. Where most stouts pair chocolate with coffee, this one brought the orange zest to the party. There aren't many better combos with chocolate than orange.

Ballast Point Sculpin - Grapefruit and simcoe. I'm sensing a trend in the realm of IPA's and DIPA's.

Abyss - This chocolaty imperial stout actually had some spice but didn't overwhelm you with syrup.

Pannepot Old Fisherman's Ale - Sweet and tart, this beer was lost as it made a solo flight around the table of fallen beer enthusiasts. I was told it's nothing like the real thing. I wouldn't have known the difference at this point in the evening.

Overall, it was maybe the best tasting we've had in the first 18 months of the Columbia Beer Enthusiasts. I enjoyed it immensely, maybe too much. Now, where's my vitamin B?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Get It Together: The Kaiser and the Oktoberfeast

I planned a dinner the other night consisting of stove top brats, German potato salad, and Brussels sprouts with sour cream and bacon. These foods made my "Oktoberfeast" complete...well, almost.

With fall comes a new set of seasonal beers. There are the porters, stouts, and pumpkin beers for sure, but I love a good Oktoberfest. Not being the biggest fan of lagers, I struggle to find a good Oktoberfest brew. Great Lakes out of Cleveland, OH makes a good one as does Bell's. However, Great Lakes doesn't distribute here and the Bell's Oktoberfest was sold in rather limited quantities.

Luckily, Avery's The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest hit the shelves here in Columbia this fall. This beer actually reminded me a lot of the cheap, rice-based Burger beer I used on the brats, but it had something more. The yeasts of these two beers was where similarities began and ended. The Kaiser is a thick, syrupy malt bomb that matches the greasy intensity of even the most German meal. If I see this beer ever on a menu at a restaurant, I'm ordering the brats and kraut every time.

Cooking w/Beer: Stovetop Brats

Last night we had what I am calling the "Oktoberfeast." This was a meal featuring German potato salad and some Brussels sprouts mixed with sour cream and bacon. There was an excellent Oktoberfest beer from Avery, but I'll post more on that later.

Now, I've made beer brats before, but this was different. First of all, I cooked the sausage in some water. One good tip I picked up was to poke some holes in the brats so that they would not explode. After the water evaporated, I browned them in the dry pan before adding some onions to cook in the remaining fat. Once the onions were browned, I tossed in a cup of beer and let it simmer.

Usually, I go for a high quality beer, but this time I went a little askew. The beer of choice was a Burger Beer, leftover from my sister's visit over a month-and-a-half ago. It's cheap and stays good forever in a can, but most importantly, it's a German style lager. There really is nothing special about the beer, but I did taste the same yeast as was in my much more expensive and better tasting Avery German style beer.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Beer I Drank Yesterday

I asked a friend to come over in order to drink my Stone 13th anniversary ale. (Thank you KT.)

That's the Stone on the left, a holy hop bomb that just got better as it warmed. This is how craft beers used to taste to me when I mostly drank Sam Adams and Guinness.

(At this point, I broke out the potato chips so that we could taste something other than the hop assault we just experienced.)

Next was a Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter...more like an imperial stout. Chocolaty, coffee-infused but smooth like a porter should be.

After that, I broke out a surprise in the Stone/Brew Dog/Cambridge collaboration Juxtaposition Black Pilsner. It was black, but I don't know that it was a pilsner. Certainly, it had the crispness of a pilsner and a definite hop presence, but that's where the comparison ends. This was one of those drinking experiences where you just get a little bit of everything: chocolate, raisins (yes, raisins), bananas, [enter beer cliche here], etc. This is maybe the singe greatest beers I've had since...well, maybe since the first beer of the evening. It was good though.

Founders supplied our final two beers, keeping us well within the hops vector. The Harvest Ale is a wet-hopped bastard of a beer. The IBU and ABv numbers are not that impressive, but the beer punches you in the pucker with citrusy hops. We followed that with another great beer from Founders: the DIPA Double Trouble.

There's not much else to say after a tasting like this. Just know that we enjoyed every drop.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Get It Together: Breakfast Stout and Breakfast for Dinner

It was Friday. We didn't feel like going out. We didn't feel like cooking dinner. In this case, the best choices include calling for pizza or making breakfast for dinner (BFD). We went with the latter.

While making our famous pumpkin pancakes (half a can of pumpkin puree and spices tossed into a batch of pancake batter), I contemplated my beer options. This is not an easy pairing. I know that some people drink cheap beer by the pitcher for kegs and eggs events, but I wanted something more appropriate.

Just as I was about to give up and open a beer while I cooked, I remembered the Founders Breakfast Stout I just slipped into the fridge. Although I still content that beer and breakfast do not readily go together, this pairing seemed somewhat fun if not extraordinary.

The bitterness of the beer and the maple syrup left me with an iron-y taste in my mouth; the bacon's smokiness battled the beer throughout; and eggs just don't go with beer. This combo was not ideal.

However, the gooey, pumpkiny pancakes did pair well with the beer on two levels. I like pumpkin and yams with dark chocolate. This beer brings the chocolate. Then there is the roasty-ness of the beer's coffee profile. There is nothing better than washing down buttery pancakes with some coffee.

The pairing was a stretch, but at least it was fun to try. The next time I might make a hardier pancake to go with my breakfast stout for BFD.

Cooking w/Beer: Meatloaf and Pumkin Bread

October rolled in this week. For me, the fall begins on October 1st. This year, the weather obliged as there was definitely a shift toward colder, wetter conditions. Using some fall seasonal beers, I made some dinner.

I had to make some dinner and we had ground beef in the freezer, so I figured I could make a meatloaf. Several online recipes suggested adding some wine or various spirits to keep the loaf moist and add some richness. I figured there had to be something out there involving beer. I was right.

I found this recipe. I made about 2/3 of the recipe since I had two pounds of meat as compared to three. The key with the beer was to fry up some onions, pour in the beer, and cook it until it was thick (or about 3/4 of a cup).

The loaf turned out great. I could have done more with the flavors, but the beer insured it was moist. Speaking of the beer, I used a Great Lakes Octoberfest. The recipe called for a amber-colored beer, but I went with the fall seasonal from my favorite Ohio brewery.

Here's the recipe...

  • canola oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 10 ounces of bottle dark or amber beer
  • dried thyme leaves
  • dry mustard
  • salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Pour in beer and increase heat to high. Bring to a vigorous boil; cook until the liquid is quite syrupy and the mixture reduces to about 3/4 cup, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in thyme, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Add beef, breadcrumbs, parsley, beaten egg and egg white to the onion mixture. Mix thoroughly with clean hands and transfer to the prepared pan.
  4. Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F when inserted into the center, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes; drain accumulated liquid from the pan and slice. Serve hot or cold or in a sandwich.

Pumpkin Bread
I stumbled over a pumpkin bread recipe a while ago that used a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. That beer would be ideal as it uses real pumpkin as its primary ingredient. However, Dogfish Head is not available in MO, so I turned to a local favorite. Schlafly's Pumpkin Ale is one of the two or three best pumpkin beers I've ever had. This was the logical substitute.

The original recipe can be found here (although I reprint it word-for-word below). The only difference, again, was the beer. I'd suggest only using pumpkin beers by Dogfish Head, Schlafly, or Southern Tier. In my humble opinion, those are the only pumpkin beers worthy of consumption. The rest are spiced ales with some pumpkin pie flavoring.

The bread was good and contained a hint of pumpkin without being too pumpkiny or bright orange. I will certainly make this again, but I might add a tablespoon or two of some pumpkin puree to give it a little more pumpkin authenticity. I think it would pair well with a chocolate stout or maybe a porter. Also, I might try it with a black bean chili with chunks of yams.

Here's the very simple recipe...

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine:

12 oz bottle of Dogfish Punkin Ale

3 cups self-rising cake flour.

1 tablespoon brown sugar

A dash each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, but not too much, as you don't want to get in the way of the flavors Sam Calagione and co. have created.

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown, and a toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Broadway Brewery

The Broadway Brewery opened a while back, maybe a week or so ago. We finally got our chance to check it out last night. I liked the place so much, I went twice.

The first trip was to get some dinner. The atmosphere is nice with the lights just low enough and the noise level just high enough. I won't get into specifics about the decor, but the bar had a nice semi-circular design with the brewing equipment adjacent and behind some glass.

For dinner, I had the smoked trout pizza with goat cheese and caramelized onions. The crust was good, but the toppings were a little scarce. My bet is they'll add some toppings and up the price a little. Overall, the prices were very reasonable for this condensed menu.

As far as beer goes, they only had two of their own brews on tap, a rye and an APA. I had the rye with dinner. It wasn't one of those hopped up rye-IPA hybrids. This beer was good on its own without an overwhelming hop presence. The beer was very well balanced and rather sessionable. What was particularly impressive was the substantial lacing on my glass as I sipped the beer.

I returned later after a concert fell flat to try the APA. Although it had a similar mouthfeel and lacing to the rye, this beer was a huge disappointment. Maybe I've had too many Schlafly APA's, but this beer doesn't measure up. I couldn't even recognize the hop. I'm sure the beers will get better, but I won't be ordering the APA again.

Besides the house beers, the bar carries a pretty extensive bottle list and there are plenty of taps of your favorite micro.

I look forward to seeing Broadway grow and vary their beer and food menus. It's good to have two breweries in town. Now all we need is a tap house with 50 beers on tap and another 300 in bottles. That and a beer store would make this town complete. Until then, I'll keep going back to Broadway to watch their progress.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Get It Together: Ommegang and Coq au Vin

We made the trip to a friend's farm for some coq au vin which is basically rooster in wine sauce. Now, I realize a rooster might not sound appetizing, but how could anything not taste good after be cooked and soaked in wine for many hours?

Anyway, one of my favorite websites - Beer Sommelier - suggested a Belgian dubbel for this meal. Luckily, someone brought us an Ommegang Abbey Ale a few weeks back for a party. This beer's strong malty flavor was just the right thing to stand up to the rich wine sauce of the coq au vin.

I love a perfect pairing of such flavorful components.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Schafly Dry-Hopped APA Cask Night at the 'Tag!

I know that some of you have not been out to the Ragtag in a while for happy hour. That's OK. This is your time for redemption.

Between 6:00 and 6:30 this evening, Barry will tap a cask of Schlafly's wildly popular and very sessionable Dry-Hopped American Pale Ale. He will be offering specials before breaking into the free beer in a wooden cask.

I'll see you there!

(Image lifted from STL Hops.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Get It Together: Alpha King and Pizza

Is there anything better than beer and pizza? I'm not sure there is. Tonight, I had my partner's chicken/bacon pizza with pesto and some veggies on her whole-wheat crust. This pizza was the inaugural pie on her new pizza stone. To wash it down, I broke open a Three Floyds Alpha King Pale Ale. There isn't much to say beyond that. Words would ruin the whole experience.

Columbia Beer Enthusiasts

I know that I've mentioned their events before on this blog, but I can't imagine where my beer drinking and brewing would be without the Columbia Beer Enthusiasts. Every community should have a beer club.

have learned a ton about great craft beer and homebrewing. Some beers that I would have never tried or even heard of have touched my lips thanks to some of the generous members of our crew. All that and I now have a solid pack of drinking buddies, something I've never really had.

This past Sunday, the CBE had a picnic at Cosmo Park in Columbia. At first, I figured people would bring a few decent, summertime craft brews, a lot of wheat beers. However, to my surprise, folks came proper with an impressive collection of beers, some I've never had before.

I brought a Boulevard Pilsner which was OK. Also, there was my Simcoe-Dependency which still receives rave reviews. There was the Victory Hop Wallop so that I would not disappoint other members who supplied great beers. Additionally, I whipped up a batch of my Expedition Stout chocolate ice cream. It seemed as though folks like the dessert.

It was a nice evening to hang out with so many beer enthusiasts. It really made me appreciate this community of beer drinkers, collectors, and brewers here in Columbia. Even Lucia had a good time...

Beer and Music

I came home late last week from work to find my partner had fixed a nice chicken dinner. It was a long day, so this was very welcome. Also, waiting for me at the door were some records I had mail ordered a while back. This all made me want to pour an Oaked Arrogant Bastard.

As I sat there, enjoying my dinner, drinking my beer, and unwrapping my new music, I thought of another perfect pairing: beer and music. It will take me some time to get something together, but I think I'll start to write about some of the these pairings.

Shall I pair a Three Floyds Alpha King with a Pavement album? Would a farmhouse ale go best with The Afghan Whigs' Gentleman? What would I listen to while drinking a Stone Russian Imperial Stout?

These are questions I shall ponder and share on this page of html code.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Beer and Chocolate Project: Trappistes Rochefort 10

As mentioned before, I'm making it my goal to find the perfect beers to pair with my friend Alan's chocolates. Honestly, I had no idea where to start. I figured imperial stouts may match the flavors and lambics could possibly compliment. Otherwise, I really had no clue.

At a chocolate and wine tasting a few months back, Alan suggested a Trappistes Rochefort 10 would pair well with his chocolate. I bought one of these shortly after that event to give it a try, but the opportunity never really presented itself.

So, the other night, I gave it a try. The chocolate I had with which to pair was Alan's new nib bar, a 70% cocoa bar with chocolate nibs embedded on one side.

This bar is by far my favorite of the Patric Chocolate line. This bar combines the creamy sweetness of the molded chocolate with the roasted nut and berry flavors of the nibs. It may be the perfect chocolate bar in that gives you all the possible flavors found in chocolate in one bar.

The beer is a Belgian quad and easily one of the finest I've ever tasted. It's dark, dark black, smells of bananas, and tastes of raisins. (Sorry, that's two posts in a row where I use raisins to describe how beers taste.) Even if the beer didn't go with the chocolate, I was sure trying it out would at least be a pleasant experience.

Honestly, the beer was too much for the chocolate...or the chocolate was too much for the beer. I'm thinking that the beer may balance better with Patric's other bars, sans nibs. Maybe even the nibs alone with the beer might pair well. I don't know. It certainly requires more investigation.

What I did learn was that I needed to have either more beers or more chocolate so that I could compare flavors and choose the best pairings. Maybe I should try to gather each of the four bars and a bag of nibs to pair with a variety of beers.

So, it's back to the drawing board for the beer and chocolate project. One place I will look for inspiration is Stone as they have been a leader in extreme food pairings, particularly with chocolate. However, the biggest difference is that they pair with flavored chocolates or truffles. So, it's quite a bit different. I figure something out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beer on a Sunday

I invited over a friend to have some beers Sunday. I have several beers in my stash that not just anyone would enjoy. On top of that, I don't know that I should enjoy them alone. So, there they sat on their shelf under the basement stairs until yesterday.

My friend Alan is a major foodie. In fact, you might have heard of his chocolate. He brought over some super dense rye bread, this great cheese with a strip of ash running through the middle, some chorizo, Branston pickle, and some homemade pickles. The pairings of all these slightly off, mostly sour foods went well with the beers I chose to sample.

We started with a Jolly Pumpkin La Roja. The nose of this beer is quite sour, but somehow balance is maintained with just the right amount of bitterness. If all sour beers were like this, I may drink more of them.

It was cool to bring out the Jolly Pumpkin as Alan has been talking to the brewer and founder at JP concerning some projects. I won't divulge any information at this time, but I think it will be a great partnership.

When that beer was done, we moved on to the very excellent Mikkeller Monk's Brew. What a fine example of a quadruple. Again, the beer paired well with the foods. It's a cliche to say that I tasted raisins, but I tasted raisins. That's probably all some people need to know about a beer.

It was a nice afternoon of discussing beer styles I don't often consume. The food pairings and Alan's profession have convinced me to make pairing his single-origin chocolate with with the perfect beers. Stay tuned for those developments.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Some Beers I Forgot to Mention

My busy schedule has not allowed me to keep up with my beer reports. I'm not even entirely sure I remember all the beers I've tried over the past couple of weeks. So, I'll just highlight a few noteworthy brews in no particular order.

Goose Island Matilda '08
This beer was part of a shipment from New York. I traded a few MO-centric brews for a mixture of fine beers. The Matilda was one of these beers. I had recently enjoyed the '09 version at Sycamore, but someone on Twitter assured me that the '08 version was better. (Link) They may have been right. Although, I'm curious if this had to do with aging as the '08 was a lot milder than the '09, sort of the way a barley wine settles into its flavor after a year or two on the shelf. Either way, this was a great beer. Belgian yeast is all over this thing with a nice bit of spice and booze to round it out.

Anchor Old Foghorn Barley Wine
I recently discovered that my partner's spicy lamb kebabs go well with a barley wine. We had guests over and thought I'd break into my stash of barley wines for this meal. I chose this beer because it comes in 12 oz. bottles (in case my guest did not want barley wine) and it was my least favorite of this year's offerings. However, in only a few months on the shelf, this beer has begun to age nicely. I will hold on to the other two bottles I have left as long as possible to see where this goes.

North Coast Old Rasputin Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
I hear through the hop vine that this imperial stout was being shipped to the 'Tag, our usual happy hour digs. The beer was there despite the lack of friends. No matter. I sipped on this great beer on my own. The bourbon is really pronounced, but the beer isn't nearly as sweet as a similar version by Schlafly. I am so glad this beer came to Columbia and that it's in 500 mL bottles.

Stone Ruination IPA
Forgotten in my stash of beers is my collection of Stone. I try not to drink these all at once, but I need to work my way through all the IPA's before they lose their punch. I previously judged this batch to have already lost a little something, but this bottle renewed my faith. Surprisingly, I think it had to do with drinking this beer in isolation. It's surprising in that it's Ruination, the beer that supposed to ruin your taste buds for other beers. What I got out of this beer last night was that it's way more complex than I remember. There's all kinds of hop complexity in there. That and a nice touch of booze.

Bell's Expedition Stout
I've mentioned this beer a lot lately. That might be because it is easily my favorite imperial stout. It won at the recent blind stout tasting. The sitter drank a half, leaving me the other. All that and I had one of my own recently, leaving me with maybe two to hold me over until fall. This beer has it all: booze, chocolate, coffee, toffee, caramel, and even a little hop. I love me some Expedition Stout. I'd marry it if I could.

Cooking w/Beer: Beer Brats

Sometimes the brats from the farmer's market are a little dry for my taste. So, I find it helpful to boil my brats in some beer. I used to go buy a tall-boy of Bud to boil my brats so as not to waste a good beer, but my thinking on this has changed. My partner feels that you should only cook with a wine you would drink. I've decided the same goes for beer.

For my beer brats, I like to use a dark or amber lager. The darker malt gives the brats a little bit of sweetness to seal in the flavors. For this particular boil, I used a Coney Island Human Blockhead. For me, almost no one makes a better lager than the Schmaltz Brewing Co. Well, them and Great Lakes Brewing, but that's the list for me. I usually toss in about 10-12 oz. of beer with some chopped onions and water. This left me enough beer to have with dinner. Then, I figure one could throw in whatever flavoring for the boil. I keep mine simple.

The boil takes maybe 10-15 minutes. Then you throw the brats on the grill. The result is a tasty, moist brat, best served on a bun with mustard.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Adventures in Homebrewing

Last year, I jumped into the craft beer scene head-first. This year, I've begun to brew my own beer. I'm now two batches in and I'm already planning numbers three and four. Here's what I've done so far...

My first attempt (below) was with the Three-Hearted Ale from Northern Brewer. I knew a lot of people who tried this extract mix from NB who all had successful batches. I thought I was getting a Two-Hearted clone, but this beer is rather different. Either way, it turned out to be a very drinkable brew. Anyone who tried it liked it. I was pleasantly surprised myself.

The last beer of my first batch was enjoyed this week.

My only issue with that first batch is that it wasn't really my beer. Sure, I boiled, fermented, bottled, and fermented again, but I did not create this recipe. It felt like I just mixed a box of ingredients and made some beer. I wanted my second batch to go further.

I came up with the idea of a Simcoe-only IPA after enjoying single-hopped beers by Mikkeller and Weyerbacher. There's something about the Simcoe hop that really appeals to my taste buds. It's one of the more grapefruity hops out there. It also works well as both a bittering and aroma hop. I figured a little tweak to the Three-Hearted recipe would yield a drinkable beer.

Besides altering the hop, I used a dry extract that was much lighter than the first batch's liquid extract.

The results of this new beer have been positive. I loved how pronounced the hop flavor has been in this beer. I didn't think it would be possible for me to improve my brews with such minor adjustments to a simple recipe.

I even created labels (as seen above) this time around. My friend Jeff came up with "Simcoe-dependency" as a way to play on a hop-head's addiction to hops. After finding a template online, it was easy to design a label featuring the name and a photo of - what else - hops.

Overall, the entire package was enjoyable to put together. This was my own recipe. I recreated a beer by other brewers I had enjoyed. The labels were just a fun extra.

The best part has been Simcoe-dependency's reception so far. A fellow hop-head proclaimed it to be a tasty beer and I caught him several times smelling the hops, informing me that the little experiment with Simcoe had worked. Also, we had people over for dinner. One of our guests was floored by the beer. He proclaimed it the best homebrew he had ever had. While I don't know that this is true, I do appreciate the hyperbole. The real test will happen once I share the beer with some fellow Columbia Beer Enthusiasts on Monday.

Anyway, here is the recipe. It's so simple that anyone could recreate it. I bet it would even be easy for all-grain folk to come up with something similar.

  • 1 lbs. Briess Caramel 40 (specialty grain)
  • 9.15 lbs. Briess Golden Light DME
  • 1 oz. whole leaf Simcoe (60 min.)
  • 1 oz. whole leaf Simcoe (20 min.)
  • 2 oz. whole leaf Simcoe (5 min.)
  • 1 oz. whole leaf Simcoe (dry hop)
  • Wyeast #1084 Irish Ale Yeast

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cooking w/Beer: Beer Can Chicken w/Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Friends brought over a chicken they raised. We decided to do something we hadn't done in a while: do a beer can chicken. The biggest difference was that I didn't run to the store to buy a Bud for the chicken. It was decided that we should use a beer that we would drink.

I did some research and found that many different beers could be used, but which would we use for this chicken? R put a spicy rub with chocolate. Anything too bitter would bring out the bitterness of the chocolate. I thought about a Hefeweizen, but the flavors would be lost to the spicy rub. A wheat ale seemed too delicate. Finally, we settled on a brown ale that would bring out the sweetness of the rub and stand up to the spice and smoke. So, a Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale was poured into our beer can chicken contraption.

I forgot just how moist a beer can chicken tastes. The chicken actually sat in the grill longer than I had intended, reaching temperatures well beyond the minimum. Normally, this would mean a dried out chicken, but the beer properly cooked and moistened the bird. Additionally, the sweetness of the malt complimented the rub well.

If I learned anything from the beer can chicken, it's that you should always cook with a beer you're willing to drink. R has the same rule for wine. I'll remember this for my next beer dish.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Beers: June 29-July 5

New Belgium Lips of Faith Dandelion Ale
R and I actually escaped the kid for a drink at Sycamore. While R sipped on a Manhattan, I ordered this specialty beer from New Belgium. I really appreciate that Sycamore brings in such hard-to-find beers as this one. However, the beer was unremarkable. It was refreshing and sweet though, just nothing special.

Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat Ale
I had a rock show later Monday evening. I always like to have a beer at a show. It helps me unwind a little and enjoy the music. The problem is that most venues don't carry much in the way of good craft brews. For this mid-summer concert, I went with a local favorite. Boulevard Wheat is not a mind-blowing beer, but it's a good go-to session beer.

Mikkeller Single Hop Simcoe IPA
I bottled my own single-hopped IPA this week. It reminded me that this beer was sitting in the stash. I just love the grapefruit in the simcoe hop. I wonder why more breweries don't feature this hop more often? I guess it could be difficulty in pairing with the right malt, scarcity, cost, or a combination of the three. Whatever it is, this beer is good. I just wish I had more than one bottle.

Caldera IPA
How can you dislike a west coast IPA in a can?

Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale

I ordered a Founders Centennial at the 'Tag Friday evening for happy hour. They were out. So, Barry, the bartender, offered me the Old Curmudgeon. Normally, that's not a likely substitute, but Barry offered it up for free since I often bring a lot of business to the 'Tag. I accepted.

Avery IPA
One of my favorite pairings in this town is the "Blue Steak Wrap" at Addison's with an Avery IPA. I've had both twice and I don't think I'll change.

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron Brown Ale
This high ABV gem paired perfectly with a homemade blueberry pie. The heaviness of the pie is balanced nicely with the beer's caramel sweetness. The extra alcohol doesn't hurt.

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale
Another great pairing of the weekend happened when my parents brought me a couple of Booches burgers. I joined the burgers with this hoppy, caramely brown ale. The extra alcohol cut the grease. Too bad Dogfish Head doesn't distribute here.

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
The neighbors had a little cookout. I brought the Racer 5 as a solid IPA stand-by. So hoppy and balanced. Mmmmm.

Bell's Oberon Wheat Ale
It's not summer without Oberon. Lately, I've been leaving out the orange peel and it's been worth it. On fruit in beers, I was wrong.

My Three-Hearted Ale
I had the second-to-last beer of my first batch. Look for a eulogy of some sort. The worst part is that I don't want anyone else to have the last one. I should have kept two.

Hair of the Dog Fred Barley Wine
Posted about this one with some lamb kebabs and mint sauce. Despite the absent carbonation, this beer was so, so good.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Get It Together: Lamb Kebobs and American Barley Wine

Usually, a barley wine is saved for dessert or used as a digestive. However, at the suggestion of He Said Beer She Said Wine, I decided to put Hair of the Dog Fred to good use. The idea is that the strong hop character will stand up to the gamey lamb and the cilantro-mint sauce R prepared to slather on the kebabs.

It did work. the sauce was spicier than expected, but the beer stood its ground.

Fred was a great, great beer, but I wish I had waited and let it age a bit. Barley wines are almost always better aged. Of course, I'd put this one right up there with barley wines like those put out by Great Divide and Avery as barley wines ready to drink as soon as you can flip that top. The only disappointing part of this particular beer was its lack of carbonation. I don't actually need a ton of bubbles to enjoy a beer, but this one was downright flat. Either way, it was a good beer to pair with lamb and a mint sauce.

Get It Together: Booches Burgers and American Brown Ale

Booches might possibly make the best burgers in the world. You don't believe me? Come to Columbia, MO and try them for yourself.

I understand. You'll take my word for it.

Anyway, my folks took the kid to Booches for some lunch while R and I painted her office. Thankfully, the grandparents returned with two Booches cheeseburgers with everything plus grilled onions. A burger like this calls for something with enough alcohol and hops presence to cut through the grease. A little sweetness wouldn't hurt either. So, I went with a Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale. Perfect.

At this point, it should be noted that many of my pairing ideas lately come from the book He Said Beer She Said Wine. The beer portion of the book is written by Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione. This particular pairing was directly from his suggestion for burgers. However spot on this choice was, I doubt Mr. Calagione has ever had a burger like Booches.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Get It Together: Blueberry Pie and Brown Ale

After eating out with my folks, we returned home to munch on some of R's delicious blueberry pie. A bock would have been a nice compliment to the dessert, but I had something better in mind. A pie as thick and heavy as this pie deserves a little caramel. Plus, I wanted some alcohol to finish off my night. For this pie, I pulled out the big guns: Dogfish Head's Palo Santo Marron. Molasses and chocolate carried the caramel home and the alcohol put me to sleep. This was a great pairing. I just wish I had more Palo Santo Marron, pie or not.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stouts in June

Sunday marked the Columbia Beer Enthusiast's stout blind taste test. Fifteen or so stouts and maybe 11 or 12 imperial stouts later, we had some winners. I swiped the 411 from our Ning. The pics are mine.

It should also be noted that I brought the imperial winner: Bell's Expedition Stout. My prize? I won a Brugge Black, a Belgian dark ale from Indiana.

Yesterday the CBE put on it's second blind tasting with great success! Special thanks to Sanford and Sycamore for hosting! There were 19 of us total and we ended up rating over 25 different stouts (14 regular and 12 imperial), not bad for a hot summer day! For those who did not participate, here is how we handled the tasting:

1. Regular (<8%)>

2. Each beer was put in a plain brown bag and randomly assigned a number. Regular stouts were labeled S1-S15, while imperials were labeled I1-I12.

3. Everyone was given a scoring sheet where they were asked to rate the beer on four characteristics (appearance, aroma, mouthfeel, and flavor) on a five point scale (0-5). Using these four scores, a total score was summed (0-20). Each scoring sheet also had room for notes/additional comments.

4. Once we finished tasting the flight of regular stouts, everyone's scoring sheets were given to our official scorer and the overall scores were entered into the cpu. We then moved on to tasting the flight of imperials and did the same thing scoring-wise.

5. Once we finished both flights of beers, we 'unveiled' the beers and the overall results.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Get It Together: Steak and a Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Saturday for dinner, we grilled steak. I needed a beer to match the smokiness and richness of a fillet hot off the grill. I considered a double IPA in order to match the richness of a steak, but I always go IPA by default. There are several good imperial stouts that would compliment a steak well, but that felt heavy on a near-100 degree day. For this meal I went with a Belgian strong dark ale: Unibroue 17.

The Unibroue 17 stands up to the smokiness of the meat and matches it with complexity and some fruitiness. Pomegranates, raisins (yes, I said raisins), orange peel, molasses, and alcohol provide such complexity. The dark malt flavor matches the smoke. All-in-all, it was an excellent match on both sides.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Feel Like the Governor of South Carolina

Between work, school, and vacation, I have severely neglected my blogs. It's as if I was lost on the Appalachian Trail or in Argentina visiting my mistress or some shit like that.

So, in the spirit of keeping things updated, I thought I'd fill you in on what was missed. Will I chronicle every beer I had over the past two weeks? No. But here are some highlights...

I was able to make out to Sycamore a couple of nights in a row for some good beers. I sampled an '09 Matilda from the folks at Goose Island. This was a great Belgian style strong pale ale. I had an Orval later in the week and the Goose Island pale compared favorably. The second night at Sycamore rewarded me with a Founders Red's Rye Ale which is an excellent example as to why ryes might be the next big thing in beer. I also enjoyed some Southern Tier Choklat as my buddy's wife ordered a bomber she needed to split with us.

In between those two visits to Sycamore, I did fit in a Brother David's Tripel from Anderson Valley. While this beer is not the best example of the style, it do go well with the gyro and spinach pie I picked up from International Cafe.

My blogging friend from NYC returned the favor and sent me some great beers. I have yet to taste any of them. We actually left on vacation (more on that below) the day after the shipment arrived. So, in my stash sits a Brooklyn Local #1, Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, Hair of the Dog's Fred, Weyerbacher Twelve, and a '08 Goose Island Matilda. My plan is to hit the Matilda first as I just had the '09 version recently at Sycamore.

As I mentioned before, we traveled to North Carolina for a vacation. No, we did not spend a week in Asheville. Rather, we spent our time on the Outer Banks which was great, sans the few beer options. My father-in-law and his wife very graciously rented a cottage on the beach for his two kids and their families. Luckily, there was plenty of beer as both my fil and brother-in-law are homebrewers big beer enthusiasts. I was the only one to bring his own. They both liked it a lot. My fil commented that it was pretty good for a rookie.

Aside from my homebrew, we feasted on Magic Hat #9 (still not sure about fruit beers), various selections from Trader Joe's, and some Dogfish Head. The DfH came from a grocery store R and I discovered. They had both 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPA's. I couldn't pass that up. This salvaged what could have been a somewhat disappointing week in beer. That is, until we discovered Harrika's Brew Haus.

The Brew Haus featured beer, tea, and related collectibles. (And next door was their wine and cheese house.) It was a restoration/gift shop/craft beer/party house/tea room kind of place. The beer selection was first-rate. They even had a couple of beers on tap. I chose the Harpoon Summer Beer since I really didn't need another Fat Tire. (Apparently, New Belgium was a newish addition.) If you ever are in the Emerald Isle area, you must stop by this little joint at least for a drink. Due to limited space in my suitcase and limited time to drink, I just picked up Weyerbacher's Insanity and Heresy as well as a Dogfish Head Palo Santo Maron.

So, there you have it. I'm caught up. Sure, I drank a Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale and an O'Fallon Five Day IPA, but that was basically the meat of my two week hiatus from this blog. There's more to come as I have a dinner with a Belgium strong dark ale and a blind tasting on which to report. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Beers: June 8-14, 2009

Here are the beers I had this week...

Bell's Expedition Stout

Did you read about my ice cream? It is so good. The best part is that I finished the half of the beer that did not go into the dessert.

Chimay Tripel (White)

R and I actually had a date night. I passed on a mediocre beer for dinner mostly so I could truly enjoy this great beer at the 'Tag.

Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

The sitter and I enjoyed this beer together...Don't worry. She's old enough. She likes brown ales. I thought this was a brown ale. It turns out that it's so much more.

Avery IPA
I have actually never had this beer before. We were out for dinner with friends. This was the only beer on the menu that interested me. It's a solid IPA.

Dogfish Head
Festina Pêche
I pulled this beer out of the stash to wet my whistle and start my Friday evening off right. I don't want to drink a ton of these, but they are so refreshing. My taste buds are so primed after a
Festina Pêche.

Orval Trappist Ale
My brother-in-law claims this was his favorite beer while traveling through Belgium. It certainly is nice with the bubble gum, bananas, and honey dominating my tongue.

Southern Tier Hopsun Wheat Ale
What a great summertime beer this is. I'd put this one up there right next to my usual summer favorite Oberon. What sets this beer apart from its wheaty brethren is the presence of pale ale-like hops. It is possible to enjoy hoppy bitterness in the sun.

Pisgah Vortex I DIPA
This beer was sold to me by another CBE member who travels to the Carolinas from time to time. There may be a couple of DIPA's I'd place ahead of this beer, but none are more balanced. And head was incredible. Check the pic.

Jamie's Breakfast Stout
Two of my three favorite brewers in Columbia are home-brewers. Jamie is one of them. His stouts are rich and chocolaty. No one should be able to do this in their driveway.

Josh's IPA
This is the other home-brewer. Josh happened to bring a growler of this excellent IPA. It stood up on a day of several top-notch IPA's.

Josh's Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy
By Josh's admission, this is no wee heavy. I'm not sure what it is, but it's good.

Ninkasi Tricerahops Double IPA
This is one of those breweries that seems to popping up in these parts. This DIPA was different than so many other DIPA's, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Either way, I'm glad my fellow brewers shared.

Green Flash Imperial IPA
Unassuming beer. I've maybe heard of Green Flash in conversation with beer geeks, but this was yet another nice DIPA from the Northwest.
Russian River's Pliny the Elder

Moylan's Ryan Sullivan's Imperial Stout
I am so glad Moylan's decided to come to Missouri. This is a great addition to the many great imperial stouts available here.

Three Floyds' Oat Goop
This is a wheat wine. This is the only wheat wine I've had. I'd describe a wheat wine as the sweeter, fruitier, lighter younger brother of a barley wine. I loved this beer and it may ruin my ability to enjoy any other wheat wine ever again.

Same as Last Week: Stone Ruination IPA, Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard, My Three-Hearted Ale

My thoughts on the week: Wow! Two weeks in a row of a wicked list of beers, many not available in this state. Eventually, this will slow down and my list will be in single-digits with one or two rare beers included.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Brew Day

Sunday was brew day for a few Columbia Beer Enthusiasts. I did not participate, although I did brew my own batch later. Instead, I hung out while Jamie and Josh brewed a couple of Belgian-style beers. Jeff was there as well, giving input where needed and consuming his share of the beer.

It was a nice to watch a couple of experienced home brewers do their thing. Josh brewed a Belgian Ale and Jamie had a Saison and IPA on the docket. Unfortunately, Jamie's IPA was lost to a shattered carboy. A little too much drinking led to no cooling for the IPA. For some reason, it seemed like a good idea to just place the carboy in some ice water. The halved carboy would beg to differ.

I'll do a post on the whole process once I'm done. For now, here are some pics from the day. Notice the carboy cozy my mom made for me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Brewery I Like: Stone

This post is a continuation of a series I started on my other blog. The idea is to write about a brewery that I regularly turn to whenever I get the chance. The first was Southern Tier; the second is one of my top-three breweries, Stone.

Brewery: Stone

Location: Escondido, CA

Beers I've had: IPA, Ruination IPA, Arrogant Bastard, Oaked Arrogant Bastard, Old Guardian Barley Wine, Smoked Porter

Favorite Beer: The Ruination IPA might be what made me a hop-head. I picked it up at this shop around the corner while living in Columbus, OH. I wanted about two beers to have with the sub that was on its way to my house. I noticed the place had some bombers. The Stone bottles caught my eye right away. The beer also caught my attention. As one non-beer drinker I allowed to sample some Ruination remarked, "When you drink this, you know you've got something." For reals.

Least Favorite Beer: The Smoked Porter sort of underwhelmed me. Sure, it was a nice beer, but I expect a Stone beer to punch me in the face. Besides, I'm learning that I don't really appreciate porters.

Beers yet to try:
Pale Ale, Cali-Belgique IPA, Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, Levitation Ale, Anniversary Ale, Double Bastard Ale, Imperial Russian Stout, Vertical Epic (although, these last two are in my stash)

Why I like this brewery: This is one of those breweries that gets me with every aspect of their product. First of all, they put out an aggressive, West Coast-hopped beer. Then there's the unique marketing, always letting you know just how good they really are. And those bottles. The bottles have these great drawings of gargoyles and demons painted on the glass with these elaborate explanations of the superiority of the Stone brew. I've never really wanted to go to southern California, but now I do just for a chance to visit the Stone brewery.