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Friday, April 27, 2012

Tropical Spice Cocktail

I was making some Cuba Libre soap (lime, rum and a bit o' coconut), and I just had to use those limes I zested! This cocktail is a nice one to welcome spring (if it ever comes back) or cool off with in summer if you're over margaritas and want something a little more.

Ingredients (Make it as strong/weak as you want.)
2 limes juiced (if you use the real stuff and skip the pre-juiced you get a thicker and creamier consistency)
1/4 lemon juiced
2 shots coconut rum 
1 tbsp Jo Snow's Tamarind Chili Syrup (or simple syrup infused with chili)

Stir it up. If your ingredients aren't chilled, shake it up with some ice. I know that the tamarind syrup isn't widely available. It's very tasty though and adds that little bit of yum.

Dig (New Belgium)

I had this pale ale on tap at a local chain restaurant-bar. I hadn't had it before, and I figured I'd try out something new by New Belgian. It's been a while since I had anything other than the Lips of Faith brews.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold-colored brew had a frothy off-white head. The smell was very light hops. Light, but strong enough for me to smell over the bar smells.

Taste: It was almost sweet. There was a light acidity to it like non-citrus fruit. It would probably be a good summertime brew if you want a little more than your standard lager. It would probably pair well with fruit and some lighter dishes.

From the NB site:
Unearth your bottle-opener because this Pale Ale is something you can Dig.

Sorachi Ace hops provides a fresh Spring zing with incredible lemon aroma. Nelson Sauvin is next in line with bursts of passion fruit, mango and peach.

American favorites, Cascade and Centennial round out this crisp, clean Pale Ale.

Dig in!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lukcy 13asartd (Stone)

This Stone ale was brewed to commemorate the 13th anniversary of their flagship brew, Arrogant Bastard. I cracked this special brew on a beautiful spring day earlier this month while I was brewing up Bitter Bunny (my Easter brew). I wonder where those days went as we've plunged back into the chilliness?

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This brew was a wonderful ruby color. It had a frothy tan head with big iridescent bubbles. The aroma was all woody hops.

Taste: Not sure if there was cascade in this, but I got that cascade chill I get. Chill-inducing hoppy flavor. It was a bit musky. For how powerful and bitter it was, I still got the malt at the end with a malty bitter aftertaste. I'm lucky to have tried this and a little sad I'll never have it again.

From the Stone site:
Oepn yuor mnid. Use a craobwr if you msut. Snice 1997, Arorgnat Basartd Ale has denemdad taht tyrnianacl micredioty rleax its girp of opprobrium on our ciollectve couniescosnss. Few pessoss the ruiereqd isinght or detph of piversceptve to crdiet the Liuqid Arorgnace for initatgsing the rlveoituon in tsate taht it has. Hevweor, taht’s pfecertly fnie, as our hlurecaen erffots in thirstung the larlegy unlliwing wolrd farorwd rquereis no exrtneal vaditilaon. We ralieze it’s hmaun nautre to bleeive taht pregorss trowads getreanss is one’s own ieda.

The mree fcat taht yuo’re hdoinlg tihs bttloe in yuor hnad ianidctes taht yuo’re pyiang antteiton, wihch ideitammley stes you arpat form the msseas. It aslo mkaes you one Lukcy Basartd. Hewover, lcuk faovrs the blod... and the arorgnat. The trmiraivute of Arorgnat Basartd Ale, OEKAD Arorgnat Basartd Ale and Dbolue Basartd Ale are all in paly in this cvueé de Basartd you now hlod, and wihle it is idneed a Lukcy Basartd, lcuk had ntohing to do wtih it.

Taody, wihle nueomrus iendicrlby dinistcitve chcoies are now alavaible, msot popele sitll fucos tiehr attntieon uopn msas mdiea’s isscenatnly banal ehco cheambr, keenpig thier hdeas frimly buerid in the maross of mecridioty. To beark thurogh tihs cophocany, to gsarp enitghnelnemt anmog the mnid-nmubnig culettr, rerequis itnent. Coinscous itnent. For mnay, this aictve piticipataron in the wolrd is unomfacbtorle. Prerrifeng inasted for oethrs to mkae teihr chcoies for tehm — be it a shioutng pindut or a toelievisn ciommecral — sheeple apccet the cmmoitozdied nrom wioutht thoghut. And to thsoe we say: “Setp asdie, and get the hlel out of our way.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hop Rush (Four Horsemen)

Yes, they served it in a
North Coast glass.
Catch-22 in Merrillville has a good selection of Four Horseman (four on tap), a beer brewed in beautiful Fort Wayne, Indiana. I had their brown ale at a pub in Valparaiso earlier this year. It didn't stand out, but it was okay enough to try some more of their beers. I figured a high ABV IPA called Hop Rush might have much more flavor.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This amber brew had a white bubbly head. I could smell a light hop aroma even over the bar smells.

Taste: I tasted heavy lemony hops. It cleanly hid the alcohol taste. It ended with the malt flavors.

From the Four Horsemen site:
This IPA features American citrus hops on top of a cool refreshing American Pale Ale.

Ruthless (Sierra Nevada)

I had the chance to visit a new pub, Catch 22, a couple of weeks ago. They had a great selection of local, craft, and more widely distributed brews. After hearing great things about Sierra's Rye IPA, I had to try it.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This amber-ish brown-ish brew had a frothy off-white head. I couldn't smell much over the bar. It left moderate to heavy lacing on my glass as I drank it down.

Taste: It was bitter, it was grainy, it was spicy, it had a light sweetness from the malt. Overall it was a powerful, yet drinkable rye. I'd recommend it for both new and experienced rye brew drinkers. It stood up even after I drank Four Horsemen's Hop Rush.

From the SN site:
Rye has been a staple grain for millennia—sought after for its stubborn resilience in the field and revered for its unique flavor. Ruthless Rye IPA is brewed with rustic grains for refined flavors—combining the peppery spice of rye and the bright citrusy flavors of whole-cone hops to create a complex ale for the tumultuous transition to spring.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gemini (Southern Tier)

I don't drink Southern Tier much. They are one of those breweries I take for granted. I know they are good, I've never been let down, yet I rarely go out of my way for one of their brews. I had never heard of this special IPA of sorts (unfiltered imperial extra pale ale blended with their Unearthly Imperial IPA), so I had to try it. Looking on the Southern Tier site, it's a limited release.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This gold brew had bubbly white head. It smelled like hoppy pine. It left light lacing on my glass as I drank it.

Taste: It was piney. It was sweeter than expected. It was balanced.

From the STBC site:
”blended hoppe and unearthly”
Look high in the sky on a clear winter night and you're likely to find two parallel stick figures known as the twins, or the constellation Gemini. We have our own terrestrial twins here, but we name them after the ones in the sky. We brew an Imperial extra pale ale, then leave it unfiltered. To this crisp, clean ale we add our potent Unearthly Imperial IPA. The two are blended together in one vessel for a beer you'll taste from the ground but experience in the heavens.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Double Crooked Tree (Dark Horse)

This is a dangerous brew. I saw this IPA on the menu and was thinking about it. I was enjoying the beer in hand (Scapegoat ESB) when I heard the bartender and person next to me chatting about it. About the person the other night who looked up the beer online, because she didn't believe it was really 12% ABV. About how smooth it was for such a high IBU. I'm normally not in tune with the others around me, but I hearing that chat sealed the deal.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This amber/ruby brew and a small-bubbly off-white head.

Taste: It was hopppppy. Earthy hops. The booze was definitely well hidden. It was like hop juice. It had a deep-pithiness to it. I guess I've been into that pith bitter lately! Very good, sippable, dangerous brew. I was careful. I knew what I was getting into.

From the Dark Horse site:
Have you read the description for the regular Crooked Tree yet? Well this beer is almost the same just double the flavor and alcohol. We actually took the Crooked Tree recipe and doubled all of the ingredients except the water, just the way a DOUBLE should be made. Big hops balanced with tons of malt give this beer a huge body. Although this beer is as cool as "The Fonz" when first purchased, it gets really mellow and smooth with some age. After a year or two stored in a cool dark place you'll notice the heavy caramel and malt flavors are trying to sneak past the hops. This beer is hugely delicious so it will need your undivided attention (the chores can us).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Scapegoat (Figure 8)

There is something beautiful about a beer poured out of a nitro-pressurized keg. The cascading waves dancing up the glass. It's something poetic. This Extra Special Bitter had a flavor to match the beauty of the pour. When I saw this on tap at Beer Geeks the weekend I was brewing my ESB, so I had bitter on the brain. I went there specifically for this.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: As the waves of cream moved their way up, it left it gold. It had that creamy and thick nitro lacing left behind as I drank it.

Taste: It was an ESB, it had that distinct yeastiness to it that can't be mistaken for anything else. I'm not sure why I was getting a corn-ness in this brew. It was a pithy bitter with a citrus that added depth to this brew. The aftertaste was very grainy, but a sweeter malted grain.

From the F8 site:
An american twist on a classic english Extra Special Bitter, the nitro blend pour adds a superbly creamy mouth feel, and this sessionable brew has Lahti's stamp of approval.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Drinking Beer on the Côte d'Azur

With tons of beer notes to catch up on, I'm condensing my tasting notes from the three new beers that I actually took quick notes on during my trip to coastal France. I found that many of them were Belgian brews and the French ones were equally as sweet. Notes are very brief; it's hard to take notes with that big blue sea begging for your attention.

Affligem Blond
This beer is brewed by Affligem in a Flemmish village named Opwijk.
Look and Smell: Gold with a white frothy head that sticks to the glass.
Taste: Very malty, but I was still able to detect a hint of bitter.
ABV: 6.8%

This beer is brewed by Fischer Brewery in Schiltigheim, France.
Look and Smell: I drank this yellow brew straight out of the bottle.
Taste: This was a blind order, so I was not expecting this Corona infused with tequila flavoring. There was so much about this that was wrong (not just a French brewery producing a tequila beer). There was so much that couldn't be masked by that little fresh lemon. It tasted like it was brewed with corn, not the rice typical of these yellow beers. I've had one or two corn-y brews in my lifetime, and there is nothing good about any of them. It was least I could say that. For a good drink on a hot summer day...go get some water, this was horrific.
ABV: 5.9%

This beer is brewed by Brasserie Grain D'Orge in Ronchin, France. This was Mr. K's, but mine was not worth trying to remember.
Look and Smell: The bottle proudly displayed its 13% ABV sticker on the neck of its devil-covered bottle. This tie with beer and satan/demons will never make sense to me. It was a gold-ish color with a light head that dissipated quickly. I could smell the hops and malt.
Taste: It was honey and sweet. I did not taste any of the hops I smelled. It was boozy, nothing smooth about it. This beer paired well with a salty Croque Madam, but I wouldn't rate this very highly (if I rated).
ABV: 13%

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Baconfest Chicago: Gourmet Gluttony

As I prepared for Baconfest Chicago, I perused the menu for must haves. It started making me really think about this bacon obsession and try to figure out the cause (see Fried Mainstream Foodies post). I narrowed the 49 choices to a group of 14 with room for some random extras should they look good.

I showed up, got my map, and stood in line waiting for the festivities to begin. It was such a variety of people waiting in line with this shared love of bacon. Groups of older people, younger people, and mixed groups waited. People brought their children to experience the bacon madness. Heavy people, thin people, and people of all ethnicities waited in line for two hours or less to get into this three hour-event. Few were observers, like me and Mr. K, Most were donning bacon-themed clothing (purchased and handmade). 

In Praise of Lard — You had me at bacon — I ♥ Bacon — In Case of Emergency Feed Me Bacon  

The line snaked through the courtyard, and as the hour grew near the area was packed. As we waited, I heard people telling their life stories, bonding with others in line. They talked of past events, strategy, and what brought them there. Some where there from far off places to make a birthday wish come true, others were given the surprise of baconfest for a special occasion.

The doors opened. As we neared the open doors the smell of pork was heavy in the air. We entered the dark auditorium to the sight of booths of people with bacon-themed bites of food in hand ready to share them with you. I made a bee-line to my #1 taste, the potato bacon pancakes from LOKaL. We got sidetracked with a delicious Bacon Shepherds Pie from Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro and the biscuits and gravy from Big Jones (on my list). They were too good, and I was too hungry to even try to snap a picture. I shared these tastes with Mr. K. I wish I could have said that about more of the tastes.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fried Mainstream Foodies

As I prepare for Baconfest Chicago, and believe me you need to prepare, I find myself reflecting on foodie-ness. First of all, some people are abandoning the term because it's becoming too mainstream. I, however am not, and as I go through my thought process the term becomes less important to me.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term came about in the early 80s as an alternative to gourmet. I think of a foodie as someone who has a passion for food. Not just the food, the experience. Some foodies look for the hot new find and some look for the hard to find. I am just interested in the new, the freshness, and of course the sensory experience.

I'm finding as foodie culture becomes more mainstream there seems to be two big groups: those seeking to push the limits and those seeking to try something new. The idea of pushing the limits to almost intolerable levels both disgusts me and fascinates me. As I go through the Baconfest menu, my stomach turns as my mouth waters. 

The limits for both combinations of flavors and health are pushed with a number of bacon-infused desserts and deep-fried concoctions. Bacon-wrapped house-made sausage deep-fried in croissant dough with horseradish mustard. Bacon custard-filled bacon beignet with Cafe Du Monde coffee and chicory bacon syrup. Bacon and egg ice cream.

The limits are pushed, but it's balanced with the distinctly new and different. Balsamic infusions, house-made kimchi, and herbed formulations. 

It's the foodie that pushes the limit health-wise that is making me pause. I'm intrigued. At this point, they aren't necessarily after quality. They are after shock value. It's not gourmet, it's grease. I will not soon forget the fervour over chocolate-covered bacon at a fest I went to last year. It was handed to me for free, so I tasted it. It was dry, sodium-laden turkey bacon covered in low-grade chocolate syrup. It was not good. In no context could I see this being good. I know everyone has their own taste, but when one or both the components are not quite food, how does that work? Yet it was being reported as a triumph. The social networks were exploding with excitement. 

I have had my fair share of the fried foods. Fried pickles, fried cheese on a stick, deep-fried cheddar bacon mashed potatoes. I will never forget when I first moved to the Midwest and found a deep-fried Snickers bar at a fair. Just one bite would send anyone into some sort of sugar coma. You can read about my fried fair adventures last year (Part 1 | Part 2). I'll taste it all as part of this food adventure.

But so much of everything is deep fried. Everything is covered in bacon. I like bacon, but this obsession is just a bit much for me. I wonder the cause. Is it a safer foray into foodie culture? Is it a sign of American excess? Is it a revolt against the health food movement? Is it a comfort food push during hard social times? When I see this reflected in shows like Man v. Food it makes me think of freakshows and food eating contests. It has always been there, but has it always been so cool? 

I'm looking forward to Baconfest and the experience of the new, the fresh, the different. I am definitely looking forward to Baconfest to people watch, and maybe, just maybe, get some of these questions answered.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Premium Verum (Warsteiner)

A definite perk when you are flying Lufthansa is the beer. They only have one, but it's a refreshing authentic German lager. It's one of the only pilsners I'd ever order on purpose, not only when it's free on the plane. In the many times I've had this, and the dunkel, I have yet to write notes about either. My 'buds might have been a little off while flying up high over that big blue ocean, but I can go off of light and refreshing memories for this post.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: Lager yeast and not much else. Very light smell. Frothy white head.

Taste: This brew is very refreshing with no aftertaste like some funky lagers have. With all the lightness, I could still detect the malt in this brew. This is a great summer brew.

From the Warsteiner site:
Enjoy this world-class international premium pilsener. 
Unique: the slightly tart taste experience.
Exceptional: the top quality of the ingredients.
Inimitable: the exquisite premium character.
Pleasantly light: thanks to especially soft brewing water.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Experiencing Serenity on the Côte d'Azur

I recently took a trip to the Côte d'Azur (French Riviera) to start off my spring right.

To get this out of the way, I'm not much of a relaxer when it comes to my vacation time. I like to hike, visit the local historic sites, and wander around the unknown streets looking for hidden gems. I am a person who spent a week in Puerto Rico (Viejo San Juan and down to Ponce) and didn't go to the beach. Through Central European tours, all over the US, and out to Madrid and Barcelona last year, I pretty much only sit down to eat and drink That is if I don't grab something from a street vendor and eat as I stroll. I recently injured my foot, which forced me to really sit and take in the whole experience.

During this trip to this wonderful Mediterranean paradise, I sat on three different beaches (for more than five minutes). This video gives you just a touch (7 seconds) of the peace on the smooth, yet rocky beach in Nice.

I tried my best to relax. I sat for picnics, and I stopped at park benches to enjoy the view. After hiking up to the Cannes Castle, I sat and enjoyed the view for a while.

No day did I relax more than the day that we went up to Cimiez to explore. After a leisurely walk through Musée Matisse I sat under an olive tree in the park for a picnic lunch. I laid under the tree with Mr. K, feeling the cool breeze and looking at the dusty olive pits embedded in the earth.

I heard children laughing and playing. The smooth tinniness of the stairs sounded like a steel drum as the children ran up and down. Just a little way off, I heard the buzzing of the saws trimming back the olive branches.

I looked over my feet and watched some youth sparring energetically. I watched the walkers with their tiny dogs that were all tuckered out. Some carried their weary pets. Others walked slowly, pausing for short rest breaks.

We walked a bit and stopped at bench overlooking a lower level filled with rows of olive trees. Children and adults were playing games, reading books, and resting under the trees. Three people were tightening nylon bands between some olive trees. I could hear the clacking of the ratchet straps as the bands got tighter. At first I thought it was more maintenance. That was until I saw them test it out. The older of the three jumped on the rope walking as far as he could. By the end of it, the trio had grown to a larger group practicing their tight rope walking.

I heard the church bell in the distance, from the old Franciscan monastery. It sounded me back into reality. I got up and continued my exploration up to the monastic gardens, to the cemetery, and through the Roman ruins.

I will not soon forget the tranquility I found when I stopped to watch the world go by in Cimiez. A memorable moment of many on my trip to the French Riviera.

For more pictures, see the album on my Google+ page.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Coffee Stout (New Glarus)

My third in my tiny tasting evening was a New Glarus brew. I had a sample NG pack to go along with the Gray's, so I tapped into that stash. I needed something more roasted after that Bully Porter. These samples were just to get a little taste of something new. I've had average to good experiences with New Glarus. I wasn't sure what this stout had in store, but I knew it wouldn't be terrible.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: The little bubbles of the off-white head stuck around. It smelled like coffee with lots of cream. It was almost black.

Taste: Yep....creamy café Americana. Sugary. Not a bitter roast. Interesting. I wouldn't add it to my list of favorite beers. It was a little sweet for my tastes, but I'm an espresso drinker.

From the NG site (apparently they don't make this anymore):
Hearty and satisfying, our Coffee Stout is the ultimate full-bodied brew. Wisconsin water, roasted malts, and imported hops are the natural ingredients we use to brew this bier. Then cold pressed organic coffee from Just Coffee Co-op is infused into the brew.

Expect this bier to pour a deep creamy head over an ebony rich body. Notice the powerful malt bouquet balanced by a spectrum of extravagant flavor. Served at room temperature this Wisconsin Coffee Stout is guaranteed to warm even the coldest heart.

Bully Porter (Gray's)

Today marks the day of the anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. Hooray! In honor of such a wonderful occasion....more beer notes....

I'm going to finish of my notes from my tiny tasting session of Gray's brews. This porter was second on the list. Not to be confused with Boulevard's Bully! Porter.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: I was able to get a thick, chocolate-colored head with a vigorous pour, but it dissipates quickly. It was a dark, almost black brown.

Taste: I tasted a light roast with a light creaminess. The roast wasn't heavy on the tongue and didn't linger like an espresso. I tasted caramel during the drink and as the aftertaste. A nice, drinkable porter. I could see this going well with a chocolate dessert or a steak with onions. Wouldn't overpower any food.

From the Gray's site:
Bully Porter is the newest additions to our family of craft beers. A full bodied rich brew with sweet caramel flavors and subtle malt aroma. Noted by the dark brown body with amber highlights and a crisp frothy head, this is a true beer lovers beer.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rathskeller (Gray's)

I had a sampler pack of Gray's from a trip to WI sitting in the lair. I went for a sampling session, using my Trion's Brew Haven glasses to split the bottles with Mr. K. I think I got a good feel for what Gray's was about. This first was an amber ale.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This had a rich and frothy cream-colored head. I smelled the sweet maltiness.

Taste: It was watery and caramel tasting. It had a touch of hop acid, but mostly sweet caramel. Not the best, but drinkable.Maybe it was old or something, because I definitely wasn't getting all of the complexity their site claims it has.

From the Gray's site:
A uniquely distinctive Ale brewed with a special blend of malted barley and floral hops. It's characterized by a rich golden color, robust full-bodied flavor topped with a rich creamy head and refreshing aroma. Already a favorite of those who appreciate an Ale with real character.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Five (Surly)

Getting a bottle of this anniversary brew last summer was a bit of a trick. I happened to be in the area and happened to have an in of sorts to find one of the last stores carrying it. I wanted to wait for a special night to crack open this limited brew. The first bonfire of the year seemed a good time.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This brew was very dark, almost black, with a reddish/amber tint. The small-bubbled head settled into a thin ring that stuck with it. It smelled as sour I hoped it would taste.

Taste: The sourness of this Brett was smoothed out by the oak. It tingles the tongue. The sourness was more of the dark fruit variety, but not as heavy. More like a bright red sour cherry than a soured cherry or plum. The earthy maltiness came through to complement the oak. A very good brew to celebrate five successful years of Surly brewing. They really do it right.

From the Surly site:
In the Surly brewhouse, brewing our Anniversary beers means one thing: forget what ya know and try something different. In honor of FIVE glorious years, we bring you a 100% Brettanomyces-fermented Dark Ale, aged in red wine barrels. Flavors of sour cherry, tobacco, oak and classic “Brett” barnyard funk, balanced by Dark Munich malt chewiness. Enjoy immediately or age at cellar temperature for a couple years. 100% Brettanomyces-fermented Dark Ale aged in red wine barrels.

Five has strong flavors of earthy black cherry and raisins with a sour finish.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tank 7 (Boulevard)

I have lots of notes to catch up on from last month. Right now I have this belgian-style farm house in hand, and I can't write about another with this in hand. I'm drinking this brew, partly because I just remembered I had it, and partly because I'm hanging on to spring in the 50-degree weather.

General Thoughts
Look and Smell: This fizzy brew was a yellow with a peach tint. It was like a yellow amber. It had some floaters locked in place (keeping with that amber look). It had a very stiff, foamy head. It was like a good meringue. It leaves a thick bubbly lacing on the glass. The citrusy hop smell had notes of pine. I didn't smell a yeastiness or a sourness or a sugariness I associate with Belgian farmhouse ales.

Taste: It was sweeter than expected. It had a sweet juiciness. There was a pithiness that balanced it out. I got the grapefruit (more bitter than sour citrus). That pith mellows out in the end.

No yeast or sourness, but still good. Better than I expected.

From the Blvd site:
Most breweries have at least one piece of equipment that’s just a bit persnickity. Here at Boulevard we have fermenter number seven, the black sheep of our cellar family. Ironically, when our brewers were experimenting with variations on a traditional Belgian-style farmhouse ale, the perfect combination of elements came together in that very vessel. You could call it fate, but they called it Tank 7, and so it is. Beginning with a big surge of fruity aromatics and grapefruit-hoppy notes, the flavor of this complex, straw-colored ale tapers off to a peppery, dry finish.