Category: Beer

IMG_1699Last night’s chocolate & beer extravaganza was a ton of fun!  Here’s the menu:

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*Scrumptious Salted Caramel Shortbread (adapted from this recipe in ReadyMade magazine):

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 heaping Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 9 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled & cubed
  • 1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp fresh-ground sea salt
  • 5 oz Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 72% dark chocolate
  • 2 oz Callebaut unsweetened chocolate
  1. Blend flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar and 9 Tbsp of the cubed butter together by hand until dough forms.  Form into ball, wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate for 30 minutes-1 hour.  Preheat oven to 325.  Flatten dough into an 8″x 8″ pan, prick top of dough with fork and place into oven.  Bake until dough begins to brown on top (about 25 minutes in my kooky oven).
  2. Allow shortbread to completely cool and place in fridge.  Prepare caramel layer by heating brown sugar and cream in a saucepan over low.  Once the mixture is bubbling, remove from heat and add butter.  Replace on heat and cook for 5-10 minutes after mixture begins to boil again.  Remove from heat and add 1 Tbsp salt, stir to mix.  Pour caramel mixture on shortbread crust and place into fridge.  Wait one hour.
  3. To prepare chocolate, melt over double boiler (the original recipe instructs you to temper the chocolate but I didn’t bother and it came out just fine). Pour over cooled caramel, spreading quickly with a spatula.  Cool and enjoy!

Although everyone enjoyed the shortbread bars last night, they are very messy as the caramel layer never sets properly.  I like the gooey-ness and plan to make these in a silicone mini muffin pan next time, spreading the shortbread up the walls, placing the caramel in the center and sealing the whole thing with chocolate.  They should be much easier to handle.  Cheers!

IMG_1704Chris Cuzme, me & special guest Clay Gordon serving the final pairing

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Garrett Oliver with

There was a fantastic Brooklyn Brewery event at Spuyten last night. Some very nice beers were on tap but the real treats were the five “ghost bottles” being sampled by the brewery crew. Ghost bottle, meaning a special bottle-conditioned beer not for sale anywhere. Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery, gave everyone a brief introduction to the bottles, then began pouring. Very cool – but what was even neater was that Garrett himself walked through the packed bar pouring and discussing the beers. Samples were free and there was enough to go around. Garrett poured the Local 1 Original Assay test beer from 2006, the Dark Matter precursor, Wild 1, Cuvee de la Crochet Rouge (Local 1 aged on botrytized Riesling lees from Red Hook Winery) and bottles of the 1998 Black Chocolate Stout. It was really interesting to compare the Dark Matter on tap with the original recipe as well as the 12-year old Black Chocolate Stout with the 2007 on tap. Both held up extremely well. I was actually a little shocked at how nice the 1998 bottles poured after the last Ale Street tasting of 10+ year old beers, most of which were oxidized to the point of being undrinkable (read all about it in the Feb/March ASN issue). The 1998 bottles had some age on them but the sherry-like nose and taste were quite complimentary to the dark roasty malt base. The Wild 1 and Original Assay were both lovely but my favorite ghost bottle of the evening was the Cuvee de la Crochet Rouge – a complex beer with a fruity, floral aroma and flavor from the Riesling lees. I hope that Garrett is experimenting with more Red Hook Winery wine lees – I’d love to see more beers treated this way. It was a fun evening and a real treat to taste these special beers. If you missed out on this event, Barcade will be hosting a Brooklyn Brewery event next Thursday, February 3. I don’t know if any ghost bottles will be poured but the tap line-up looks great – hope to see you there!

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EarthTom Baker and Peggy Zwerver, owners of Earth Bread + Brewery, brought six of their beers to Spuyten Duyvil Monday evening. I’ve been able to visit the brewpub in Mt Airy twice since it opened last October and have enjoyed Tom’s beers both times. I began with two half pours – the Terre Fume and the brand new Oyster Pale Ale. I’ve had the Terre Fume before and it didn’t disappoint this time – satisfyingly smoky yet light enough to be refreshing. Tom used a 50% wheat/50% smoked malt grain bill for this 4.5% ABV ale. This beer was inspired by a Grätzer, an old northern German/Polish top-fermented wheat ale which you can read more about here.  This is the third smoked wheat beer I’ve had and a style I’d like to see more often, especially for the summer months.  I was very glad to have ordered the Oyster Pale Ale early as the keg kicked less than two hours into the evening.  40 pounds of oyster shells from Blind Tiger’s Pacific NW fest were cleaned, bagged and boiled for two hours to produce this nicely drinkable IPA.  English hops and American ale yeast give this beer a clear refreshing hoppiness.  My last Earth beer was the Alehoof Gruit, a more subtle gruit than others I’ve had with the herbs melding nicely to create a delicious beer.  Tom used a Belgian yeast along with six herbs – ground ivy, juniper, Queen Anne’s lace, sweet myrtle, yarrow and mugwort.  This is another style I’d like to see more often.  Tom mentioned that Earth is going to be making their own soda, dedicating one of their taps to carbonated water then mixing in house-made syrups the old-school way.  Sounds like a fine excuse for another visit to Earth in the near future.  I tasted the Non-Profit Porter and the Barely Wine, but the Terra Fume and Alehoof were the standouts of the evening for me.  It was a privilege to chat with Tom and drink his fine beers in my borough.

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David Myers of Redstone Meadery with Justin Philips of beer tableRedstone Meadery made its debut in NYC this week.  I had the pleasure of meeting David Myers, Chairman of the Mead, and tasting his delightful beverages at beer table on Tuesday evening.  Mead is an ancient fermented beverage, probably a bit younger than beer, made from honey.  I was first exposed to mead a few years ago at New York City Homebrewers Guild meetings and found it delicious.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that most commercial versions do not compete with the homebrewed stuff.  Redstone’s meads are an exception.  David is an entertaining guy – ready with the jokes and very knowledgable about his products.  Redstone Meadery was the first company in the US to offer a line of draft meads and is the only meadery with a carbonated line (I didn’t even know carbonated meads existed!). They produce two primary lines – purple labels indicate an 8% carbonated nectar while yellow labels are 12% mountain honey wines. A very limited Reserve mead is produced every other year and is available only in the tasting room in Boulder, Colorado or on the website.

Glasses of Redstone MeadThe tasting began with two of the nectars, the Sunshine Nectar and the Black Raspberry Nectar, moved on to two mountain honey wines, the Traditional and the Juniper, then ended with the special Nectar of the Hops on draft.  My favorite of the bunch was the Sunshine Nectar, a light but complex drink that is a perfect aperitif.  Apricots are added in the process to give this a more traditional dry flavor.  My second favorite was the Nectar of the Hops, which I found had less depth than the Sunshine but a very nice citrus hoppiness which balanced the sweetness of the nectar.  This nectar is dry-hopped with 50% Amarillo and 50% Centennial hops.  The Black Raspberry is the flagship product and the first mead Redstone sold, debuting eight years ago.  The Juniper honey wine has lightly-toasted French Oak added to give a tannic balance to the mead.  All of the meads tasted were quite good and I am quite happy that we have a quality commercial mead available in New York City.

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Poutines Classique with Boreale RousseI adore poutine and was ready for the real thing after a lengthy day of travel.  Luckily, we’re staying a few doors down from the closet-sized Patati Patata, a restaurant highly recommended by Montreal Poutine.  I took a seat at the counter and ordered the Poutines Classique and a 10 oz pour of Boréale Rousse.  The poutine was delicious – the perfect meld of frites, creamy gravy and firm cheese curds.  The beer washed my palette clean nicely between bites.  Our hunger satisfied, we headed north to Dieu de Ciel.  There was a Japanese beer event scheduled for that night and the place was packed.  We fought our way to the bar and ordered beers.  I went with the Ochamena Bi-Ru while Tom chose the Chaman, both brewed by Dieu de Ciel.  The Ochamena was quite tasty though I could not discern what made it so.  It was listed as Ochamena au Sarrazin et Thés Japonais, which turns out to be buckwheat and Japonese tea.  Very interesting flavor qualities – I’d like to try it again with a fresher palette.  Tom’s Imperial Pale Ale was also very drinkable.  We grew tired of being jostled by the crowd and headed back towards our lodging.  We decided to duck into Reservoir, a brewpub around the corner from our apartment.  Tom enjoyed the IPA while I ordered a small Blanche.  The Blanche reaked of sulfur which impaired the drinking experience greatly.  I ordered a small cream ale next while Tom had a stout – both were served on nitrogen.  The stout was the best of the bunch in our opinion.  We headed to bed after that.  Mondial next and a return visit to Dieu de Ciel…

Beer Beer & Food Travel

My first beer festival video! It’s not perfect, but I hope it captures the feel of the fest and the fun everyone was having.

This was my first time attending the cask fest and I was quite impressed. There were over forty casks pouring, with representation from every Long Island brewery as well as several regional brewers and two local homebrew clubs. The Fest is held annually at Blue Point Brewery in Patchogue, easily accessible from NYC via the Long Island Rail Road. We arrived just after the opening and although there was a line, it moved quickly. The Fest is held in a series of heated tents attached to the brewery. Although it was quite cold on Saturday, I was quite comfortable in a coat. The main tent was crowded, but not uncomfortably – there were always gaps to stand in around the periphery. Fest admission included a half-pint glass and six tasting tickets. The pours were generous and I usually saw full glasses handed back – and there were virtually no lines to get your beer. Live music was performed, port-a-potties were clean and accessible (again, no lines), and food was available for purchase in the back tent.

I had a terrible head cold and was able to try only a few beers, but the ones I did try were quality. Some of the stand-outs were Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops (the first cask to kick), Black Forest Brew Haus Chocolate Doppelbock and Captain Lawrence Brewing Company’s Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA dry-hopped with Simcoe. I wish I had been able to taste more beer but there are more cask fests in my future.

This was a well-run festival that I would recommend to anyone in the NYC/Long Island area. It’s a great chance to try a large variety of locally-produced real ale.

If you missed the Blue Point Cask Festival, there are several upcoming cask fests in the area:

  • This Wednesday, Rattle N Hum will have four casks of the Harviestoun ‘Ola Dubh’ beginning at noon. This is a rare opportunity to try 12, 18, 30 and 40-year firkins of this renowned beer. Downloadable tasting notes can be found here.
  • The 17th Brooklyn “Cask Head” Cask Festival takes place at Brazen Head on February 6-8.
  • March 20-22 sees the return of the 3rd Manhattan Cask Festival at Chelsea Brewing Company

More information about cask ale can be found on Alex Hall’s site.

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The ticketI attended a fantastic beer event at The Diamond yesterday!  Chew N’ Brew, dreamed up by owner Dave Pollack, pitted six teams against each other in a homebrew and food pairing competition.  Each team brought a homebrew and a “snack” to go with it.  A donation of $20 to East Village Farms bought you a ticket worth one each of the six pairings plus two repeats of your choice.  Everyone put a lot of thought and work into their pairings and it showed.

Vices & VirtuesEsoteric Order of H.P.D.Dirty Hands, Clean ConscienceThe Missing Smiths & Drunken ButchersBockstars

  • Team Vices & Virtues paired pan-fried butternut squash and goat cheese ravioli with a Belgian saison.
  • Esoteric Order of H.P.D. assembled sopes with pork, Anasazi bean puree, pickled radish, crema and cilantro with their spicy Black Saison.
  • Dirty Hands, Clean Conscience cooked up a lamb shepherd’s stew with Asiago croutons, paired with a classic porter
  • The Missings Smiths featured cheese ravioli with pumpkin-sage cream sauce and a French oak-aged European Bock.
  • Drunken Butchers brought shrimp and crab end-of-summer rolls with an IPA
  • Bockstars served up home-smoked ribs with their Bock Fiddy

butternut squash ravioli & saisonsope with black saisonlamb stew and porterCheese ravioli & oak-aged Bockshrimp & crab roll with IPArib & Bock Fiddy

Everyone who attended voted for a favorite.  Esoteric Order came in first, winning a trip to Stoudt’s Oktoberfest Festival.  Second place went to Bockstars and third was Vices & Virtues.  I was blown away by the quality and variety of both the food and the beer, kudos to all of the teams!

This was one of my favorite beer events this year and I truly hope Dave repeats it in the future.

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The business meeting finished early and now I’ve got time to kill before my flight. Luckily, I’m in terminal A at Logan Airport in Boston and there’s a Harpoon bar here. I’ve convinced four coworkers to drink local and we’re now sipping a beer or two. I enjoyed the Octoberfest and have moved on to the darker side with a Munich Dark. The beers are served a bit too cold but I love being able to drink local craft beer in an airport.

Harpoon bar
Near gates A20-22
Logan airport in Boston

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The Pumpernickel

The Pumpernickel at WD-50: rye whiskey, caraway, molasses and Brooklyn Brown Ale.  Delicious!

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my BBQ plate at Maddy's We chilled out during the day, something I’d sorely lacked on the trip thus far, and with my parents, headed to Maddy’s Rib & Blues for dinner. Maddy’s isn’t a craft beer destination but carries the local Sweetwater and Terrapin on draft as well as a couple other crafts. I ordered a Terrapin Rye Pale Ale and a half rib and chopped pork combo plate with mac ‘n cheese as the side. Maddy’s uses a tomato-based barbecue and is quite good. It’s a bare bones kind of place, with a long rectangular painted cinder block room and blues music on the speakers, and live music on the stage at the back of the room most nights. It’s a great place to sip a local beer, eat ‘cue & listen to the blues, and it’s on the way to Decatur from my parent’s house, my favorite craft beer area in Atlanta.

Twain's Sated, the five of us (my brother had met us at Maddy’s) drove a short way to Twain’s Billiards and Tap. Twain’s became a brewpub only a year and five months ago, before that it was a bar/pool hall. This was my second visit to Twain’s, I’d been nicely surprised by the quality of their beers last year and was looking forward to trying them again. Twain’s is located in a huge, open warehouse-like space with large front windows. Georgia brewery logo murals are painted on the walls, large model planes hang from the ceiling, breweriana, artwork, and book pages decorate the walls, chandeliers made of tap handles dangle overhead, booths constructed of concrete blocks & wood, while wood champagne racks hang above the boots and half oval-shaped wood bar the bar at Twain'swith sixteen padded backed chairs. The chandeliers, bar, and much of the artwork hanging on the walls was made by the brothers that own the bar’s retired physician father. The brewer, Jordan brewed at the defunct Dogwood Brewery. Seven of his beers were on tap: Sleepy Conscience ESB, mad Happy Pale Ale, Randalized Mad Happy (oak chips tonight), Irreverent Liberty IPA, Billiard Brown, 3 Lies Cocoa Stout, and Stormy’s Trippel Ale and one on cask, the Aptap handle chandelier at Twain'splewood aged Stout. My favorites were the ESB, very nice toasty aroma, light sweetness, nice biscuity/toasty flavor with bitterness increasing after the swallow, the Brown, beautiful toastiness, a sweet light molasses balanced with hop bitterness, and the stout with its big cocoa nose, roasty with more chocolate in the mouth and a nice bittering balance. I was underwhelmed by the pale ales and IPA, although they were all very drinkable, just not as impressive as the others. The tripel had fresh fruit and alcohol heat dominate the nose, honey and more fresh fruit and alcohol heat in the mouth and a pretty big body, a smooth beer at a whopping 12% ABV, would never have guessed it was that high. The cask was also a favorite, with tons of chocolate, dark fruit and a bit of heat in the nose, woody smokiness in the mouth, very flavorsome. Twain’s alsinside Twain'so offers 44 craft bottles and 5 micros. There’s a live music stage in the front, thirteen pool tables, two shuffleboard tables, four dart lanes, a foosball table and various arcade games for entertainment. Twain’s is a funky, comfy and spacious joint to hang out in, and with the fine quality of beer offered, a place I’d be hanging if I ever find myself living in AtlaBrick Store Pubnta again.

Brick Store Pub was calling, though, and we drove over, lucking out with a parking space out front. It should be noted that both Twain’s and Brick Store are within walking distance of the Decatur Marta station, making them even more attractive to a public transportation junkie like myself. This was my 4th or 5th visit to Brick Store and it was still as natty as on my first visit. You walk into a room with a two-story high dark ceiling with exposed brick walls on the right side, rough painted walls on the left, wood floors, wood tables and chairs up front and a large u-shaped bar with aroBrick Store Pub downstairsund sixteen stools in the back. Stairs to the left of the bar lead up to a small loft area overlooking the main room with more exposed brick and walls composed of wood doors, fitted with wood tables and chairs. Continue walking once you reach the top of the stairs, hang a left and you enter the Belgian bar and its adjoining room, low-ceiling with exposed rafter ceilings, more exposed brick, walls lined with doors, skylights, wood booths, tables and floors. The whole place is cozy, intriguing and utterly cool. We started at the bar upstairs but were quickly moved to a table. 25 draft beers are on offer, broken down into seventeen American craft and import from the downstairs bar and eight Belgian or Belgian-style from the upstairs bar plus around 200 bottles. Mom ordered a bottle of Troublette, Dad a cask Victory Storm King, JB a Flying Dog Gonzo Baltic Porter, and I a DeProef Signature Ale and a Schlenkerla Fest, completely breaking my local streak. The Signature was beautiful, sour, sweet, and fruity while the Schenkerla was Brick Store Pub upstairs barsmoky goodness. We ordered Brunswick Stew (a Southern specialty I don’t see much up north), soft pretzels, and a cheese plate, going local here as well, as all the cheeses were from Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, Georgia: Green Hill double cream cow’s milk, Sevenwood 3 month aged raw cow’s milk and Georgia Pecan Chevre aged goat’s milk with organic pecans. Everything was yummy. Brick Store can get quite crowded, but that’s the only drawback as far as I’m concerned, it’s a must when in Atlanta!

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