There are several things to keep in mind when you’re on the precipice of enjoying your well-deserved beer. To name the essentials:
TEMPERATURE — don’t treat beer like it has to be as cold as the Rockies: would you serve a Malbec at a freezing temperature? No, so please respect your beer enough to let it breathe a little and warm up to cellar temperature (45-55°F) so it can properly display and perform its wonderful components. You can tell the difference even in a terrible beer: if the mountains on the can turn blue, your beer will smell and taste like cold, like licking the freezer crust off a Stouffer’s mac ‘n’ cheese, but if it warms a little you get the actual aroma and flavor. Think about it the next time you see those commercials about “drinkability” and “Cold as the Rockies” — what are they hiding behind all that cold?
GLASSWARE — proper glassware is another must. Accelerated in the wine industry by the Riedel family was the idea of specific glasses for certain wines to enhance the experience of drinking the product and enjoying it to the fullest degree. This has been a part of the good beer world since the beginning. Beer steins, goblets, snifters, tulips, kolsch, pints…the list goes on. I personally dread the presentation of a beer in the common, all-purpose shaker glass at most bars — the whole thing seems off if the beer isn’t showcased in the best light or in this case the best glass for its contents.
THE POUR — I can’t even get started on how many terrible pourers there are working in the bartending industry or just in casual settings. There is no excuse not to pour a beer correctly, because it’s too ridiculously easy. If you need video instruction, here’s your man.
One of my favorite parts about beer, besides the taste, are the different types of bottles they come in and their labels. You can get growlers at most any microbrewery brewpub, where for a fixed charge you can buy a half gallon of beer on tap and then bring it back when you’re done with that beer for a lesser charge for a refill. This is a great system and provides a solid link between the brewery and their customers. There are also bombers, which are the 22 oz. bottles you can find now in most any good grocery store. Some breweries only do bombers, like Buckeye Brewing but others do a mix of both bombers and the regular 12 oz. bottles. When you venture into lambics, you get to experience the delight of the champagne style bottle with cork and cap. Or if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on De Molen, you’ll have the treat of holding a sweet bomber with cork, champagne cage and wax top.
Alright I’m done geeking out on beer. Contribute comments or questions — I’m happy to answer!
When I joined Ratebeer.com over a year ago, one of the first things I learned was that many more styles of beer existed than I had previously reckoned. There are in fact, 73 different styles of beer lovingly crafted for your enjoyment. So far I’ve worked through 65 different styles, with sours ranking as my favorite for its unique complexities and delightful inconsistencies across this particular style. However, belgian strong ales take the cake for the beer I seem to drink the most. Anyways, here is the rundown of the Mighty 73. Look them up on RateBeer for the deluge of descriptions.
Abbey Dubbel/Abbey Tripel
American Dark Lager
American Pale Ale
American Strong Ale
Belgian Strong Ale
Belgian White (Witbier)
Bière de Garde
Classic German Pilsener
English Pale Ale
English Strong Ale
Golden Ale/Blond Ale
Imperial Pils/Strong Pale Lager
India Pale Ale (IPA)
Lambic – Faro
Lambic – Fruit
Lambic – Gueuze
Lambic – Unblended
Malt Liquor — edward 40 hands is the only reason to drink this, and probably not even then.
Scotch Ale — if you value your life, don’t EVER call a Scottish person a Scotch…a person is not something you drink, unless you’re a vampire.
So what if all the rum’s gone….you’ve got 73 types of beer to choose from, so drink up me hearties, yo ho!
A friend sent me a link to the trailer: “For The Love of Beer”. FINALLY! Finally there is a documentary coming out about the incredible female brewers across the nation. I am just kicking myself that I wasn’t the first person to think of it and that I’m not somehow involved. From the trailer, the documentary looks super awesome and follows some of the top women in the industry and looks at the women who drink the product. They still need help in the money area for completion and getting it into theaters, so if you’re interested just follow the link.
Last week was my second time working at Buckeye Brewing this summer. Two weeks ago, all I did was wipe down the bombers before packaging them in cases and transporting them to the coolers. As boring as that may sound, no task is menial at a brewery and it allowed me to keep my ears open and ask a lot of questions about the brewery and its history. My second time round, I worked a 9 hour day: the first half went the same as the previous week and the second half I got to bottle. I was doing alright until I mixed up the buttons. The bottling machine works by placing 2 bombers under the fillers and pressing 2 black buttons at the same time. Then you move the bombers over to the capper and press 2 yellow buttons and 1 bottle is capped at a time.
However, I managed to accidently press the black buttons instead of the yellow when no bombers were under the fillers and so 2 bombers of Hippie IPA went spraying all over the machine, the table, the floor and me while I yelled, “NO NO NO!!! STOP STOP STOP!!!” I pressed the stop button and called over the owner who was very sweet and told me “It wouldn’t be a brewery if you didn’t get soaked in beer at some point”. To insure it didn’t happen again, I wrote in red sharpie on the back of my hands, “Black Beer” and “Yellow Cap”.
That was one highlight of the day, but the real highlight was being shown and allowed to dry hop the Hippie IPA with Cascade pellets for aroma. Hop pellets are so funny looking, they remind me of gerbil food from 5th grade science class. However, they offer brewers a great advantage in that they are more consistent in their bittering and aroma capabilities and more stable during the boil than regular full hops. Anyways, the point of this little story is that even after my little accident I came away feeling like a big girl and one step further on the brewing yellow brick road.
I was tipped off by a friend that somewhere out there exists an all female run brewery. I rooted around on the world wide web a bit, searching for this seemingly mythical awesome place and came across the lone female brewer in Montana, Colleen Bitter at Kettlehouse Brewery. In this article is mention of the Pink Boots Society: this brand new society is dedicated to supporting and advancing women in all areas of the industry, a cause I’ll happily stand by. Especially as I look for employment in this industry, I find that organizations such as these are rare and vital. I’m more a red boot girl myself but I’d wear pink for the sake of something this important. More power to female brewers — sistahs are doin’ it for themselves.
When you create an account with Ratebeer they ask you your favorite style of beer. In the beginning, I was a barley wine girl then a fruit lambic lady and now I feel like I might be delving into the world of sours. Barley wines were appealing, and still are, because of the high abv and they tend to have interesting sweetnesses going on. Fruit lambics were of particular interest because they produced flavors reminiscent of those found in our family orchard and the lambic style is so varied and surprising. Sour ales also fall into this category of surprise and a variety of flavors that can vastly differ from one to the next. My recent excursion to Lola had the added bonus of Jolly Pumpkin’s sour ale, La Roja. I hadn’t had one since July and it was such a pleasant reminder of the greatness of sour ales. Off to expand the horizons once again.
The Line Up
Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne:
I wrote about this weird yet great sour earlier in “Salty Bitches” but here’s a run-down again of my notes on it. Straight from the bottle enjoyed on a summit over Lago Lugano, Switzerland. This was recommended to me by the wife/owner of A Tutta Birra in Milano as her favorite. Most interesting beer I’ve had so far in Italy. The aroma reminded me of rotting trash and at first sip so did the flavor. Further sips revealed sour cherries, dark fruits, apricot and vanilla. Incredibly smooth on the palate, absolutely no kick at the end. Much too sweet for me, almost could be considered a dessert beer in the same vein as dessert wines.
De Ranke Kriek:
Pours a muddy purple/red with no head. On the nose: same white grape tartness as lambic gueuzes but the flavor is really watered down. Flat but crisp. Don’t get the cherry taste but more lemon and white grape. Love the crisp cool character and the slightly boozier aroma of this as compared to the guezes. Very drinkable but not very complex.
Jolly Pumpkin Perseguidor (Batch 4):
On draft at Beer Engine Sour Ale tasting. Pours a dark brown/black with ruby tinges on the side. No head. Nose: cognac as is the flavor with that white grape/almost smokey aftertaste. Flat, slightly tart and crisp. Yum. The tartness is really present in the corners of the mouth which inspires you to keep sipping away.
Rodenbach Grand Cru:
Bottle at The Beer Engine: Color: same as Rochefort 8 with no head. Aroma is funky bleu cheese and sour white grapes. Smooth slightly tart but boozier flavor at the beginning of the sip then tart bite at the back of the palate. Very refreshing and completely different than the last Flemish Red I had, Duchesse de Bourgogne. Love the diversity of this style – it felt like a borderline lambic.
Jolly Pumpkin La Roja:
750 at Lola into white wine glass. I love the label as I love all the Jolly Pumpkin label but this one is just great. The color is simply beautiful like a cross between a hoppy IPA and a mead. Fluffy orangey/tan head with a nice fruity aroma almost a kin to red wine sangria. Flavor is similar with some dark wood background notes and again that really nice fermented fruit sweet/sour combination. Such a delight.
SABMiller is the conglomerate that has brought you such brands as Grolsch, Miller Genuine Draft and all its buddies, Peroni (thanks for giving Italy a bad name) and Pilsner Urquel. Sometimes, surprise surprise, the Financial Times runs articles documenting the exploits of the macrobrewing industry. The most recent article, featured a run-down of SABMiller’s outreach to more local markets in West Africa by using cassava root in their brews. Apparently, this move was in reaction to some recent flooding that decimated other crops in the small town of Luanda. SAB also set up shop, as in sunk a few hundred million into a new brewery next door, and are now producing the cassava beer and selling it to the same people who grew the crop — even though, it is slightly cheaper than their standard beer.
I’ll give SAB some cred for helping out subsistence farmers in a bad situation in West Africa but here’s my issue: I worry that swooping into a bad situation with billions of dollars and buying up cassava root, could possibly influence the local government to start only growing this product — an abundant, cheap resource that feeds the nation’s poor — and could possibly drive up the cost of this resource making it more expensive to eat than produce. A similar situation occurred in Chile with soy beans to disastrous ends. Just something to keep in mind when large corporations come into underdeveloped countries with an unregulated agency — something doesn’t smell good here.
I have the best brother in the whole world. Christmas started off with the proper glassware I needed for different styles of beer, since I’d been roughing it at school with a shaker, a double-handled mug and a sampling glass. Without even remembering to ask for it, my wonderful brother had slipped an equally wonderful surprise into my stocking: my very own triple beer hydrometer. This giant thermometer allows me to measure the weight of a liquid in relation to water (the gravity) and calculate the abv — essential to any homebrewer.
I woke up accidently way too early on Christmas day, which is never the case in my house, and so half way through presents I was melting down the armchair and pinned under wrapping paper and an assortment of gifts…all because I was too tired to move them to the floor.
By the time my brother gave me his last present to me, it was so heavy and situated directly under my chin I not only had trouble breathing but I couldn’t unwrap it. This was the present, in more ways than one, that made me sit up and take notice. The insides: Delirium Noël, Dogfish Head Burton Baton, Dogfish Head Theobroma, Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, my all time favorite Rochefort Trappistes 10, St. Bernardus Tripel and Southern Tier UnEarthly IPA. Oh, and just for funsies and to share, he brought home a 750 of Dupont Avec les Bons Vouex, a Belgian saison to die for: pours a really beautiful hazy orange/amber with an enormous super-fluff off-white head. Laces a teeny bit at the beginning. Seems like a saison/geuze hybrid because of the nice yeastiness and white grapes but is balanced with a sweetness.
A treasure trove of craft beer! What more could a girl ask for?! Well, about a week later a dear friend brought me a beer I’ve been waiting to get my hands on for a long time. Back from Chicago, he came armed with Three Floyds Behemoth Barleywine. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this brewery, start doing your homework because they have been giving the Midwest something of which to be truly proud and for the rest of the world to salivate over.
Every year, the day after Christmas is my immediate family’s opportunity to have our extended family over to our house for Boxing Day. People get to unload their leftovers and bring horrendous white elephant gifts and I get to make yummy hors d’oeuvres to round out the table. My creations included crostini with a peppered salami/spiced green olive tapenade I blended up in the Cuisinart and a slice of creamy Danish havarti. Popped them into the oven for 15 minutes @ 200º to melt the cheese. If you don’t have a baguette or even an oven, repeat the recipe but with crackers (I prefer Bremner) and a microwave.
Pancakes slathered in my homemade jam and topped with homemade whip cream. They were so cute and little you could eat ‘em like cookies.
I only made a few of these next ones and they disappeared in maybe 15 minutes. Rolled out some philo pastry dough very thin, then used a snowflake cookie cutter to make some shapes, placed a few bleu cheese crumbles in the middle, a half of grape tomato on top, sprinkled with black pepper and cayenne pepper. Into the oven @ 350º for 10-12 minutes. Cayenne pepper doesn’t faze me anymore so I totally forgot that others in my family might still have taste buds, so basically tonight I made my aunt cry and slightly choke. But they were REALLY yummy.
One of the perks of being the cook is you are allowed to demand drinks. So while I juggled the pancakes and the snowflakes, my brother poured me a snifter full of La Trappe Quadrupel from De Koningshoeven. It has a light cognac colored pour with very little head. The aroma is lovely: a very refined banana scent that isn’t artificial but mellow. The flavor is a lighter version of the aroma and boozier and smooth but not slick over the palate. As I quenched my thirst and danced around the kitchen to some motown tunes amongst the swirl of culinary activity, I started delighting from the trickle of yummy sounds coming from the dining room. I already knew the pancakes were good but I hadn’t really known how the crostini or the snowflakes would come off. My excitement about personal creations increases exponentially when I get feedback from people other than myself. My dancing got a little funkier after the positive reviews and was accompanied by a little chant of “I did it! I did it! I did it!”. Honestly, there is nothing in this world that makes me happier than feeding people and giving them yummy things to drink. I leave the calming effects of speeding in a happy-making category unto themselves.
Just woke up from a killer food coma, thanks to dinner at L’Albatros with the fam. The recent addition to the Cleveland restaurant scene has taken up residence in the old That Place on Bellflower. Great ambience, friendly and intelligent staff and food that blows the mind. I’m just coming off finals week and therefore have averaged maybe 8 hours of sleep in the past week, so I’ve been eating cereal and crack. That said, today was a total reversal of that routine: prato misto and a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout at Sergio’s and at L’Albatros; escargot, cassoulet and a canalé with cherry compote and a Reissdorf Kölsch.
L’Albatros has a decent beer list with some Great Lakes, Orval, Duvel, Old Speckled Hen, Gavroche but with LINDEMAN’S! I have such a pet-peeve when places try to offer lambics but then offer the MOST crap one. Ok that aside, the food is to die for and you’ll be fighting off the “itis” before you know it, but in such a good way.