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.