A Visit to Austin, TX and a Very Hopp-y Easter!

It’s been a few months since my last post and to be honest I’ve been so busy at work that taking the time write an epistle was not a priority. Ironically, it took a work-related event in the form of a conference to cause me to stop… take a breath… and realize how much time has passed since I had flexed my blogging muscles.

I will not go into conference details as, unless you using SAP as your ERP system, then you are not likely to find any interest in that aspect of the story. But I will highlight some of my exposure to Austin’s food and craft beer cultures.

The décor in my hotel room in the Hyatt Regency speaks of Austin’s musical background in Texas Blues.

My arrival on Monday the 26th included an afternoon session, after which I met up with colleagues from other companies as well as a my coworkers who also attended including a former colleague who was working in a related but different industry and was there for the conference. The meet-n-greet included free alcoholic beverages so I took the opportunity to begin sampling some of Austin’s craft beer. My intro was a Pilsner from Austin Beerworks.

Austin Beerworks Pearl-Snap Pilsner

It had a good Pils flavor though it was slightly stronger in the hops arena. My only complaint was that they did not include a glass to serve it in. I would like to have seen how the beer clung to a clean glass and what kind of head it produced.

After the meet-n-greet my colleagues and I took a stroll across the Congress Avenue Bridge and headed north toward the Capitol, until we got to 6th Street, then we turned right and went another block and entered BD Riley’s Pub just on the left.

Observers waiting for the Bats on Congress Bridge.
Heading north on Congress Avenue you can see the Capitol building in the distance.

BD Riley’s is an Irish Pub to be clear but it’s an Irish Pub in Texas. So the Blues music cultural is definitely alive and well there (see link below).

While there I started with a really good Pecan Porter from (512) Brewing Company. It has a really great flavor and look to it. And it went well with the Appetizer Sampler platter we ordered. The wings had good heat the fried dill pickle slices were tasty and the chicken planks weren’t bad. I didn’t have any stuffed potato skins but I was told there were delicious.

(512) Brewing Company’s Pecan Porter

For my main course I ordered the Chicken Newton. Which contains pulled chicken breast, crisp bacon and tangy green apples chopped and topped with a four-cheese blend then skewered on Texas Toast quarters. I paired that with an Axis IPA from Real Ale Brewing. Both were very good and satisfying.

We headed back to our hotel after dinner and awaited the next day’s sessions of conference presentations.

After all of the speaking and mingling of the day, we met up with a mix of other utility companies at a social dinner sponsored by one of the Vendors at the conference. It was a good mix of discussions about our day to day activities as well as comparisons of how each company handles their own tasks. We also ventured off into other avenues of interest which included travel, foods and craft beers (for some of us). It was good to meet people from other areas who shared my interest in Craft. The dinner was held at Zax Restaurant & Bar, a short walking distance from the Hyatt Regency.

They had us segmented away in a corner of the restaurant and rightfully so as there were about 30 or more of us. I walked back toward the bar to view the display of beer taps and see what the fare was. I was surprised to find that most of the taps were local brands, and only a few were more well known (Lone Star, Shiner).

I started out with a Kolsch named All Call from Lakewood Brewing. Very nice Kolsch flavor and it re-enforced the reputation that a lot of breweries in Texas are specializing in Lagers, Pilsners and other German based brews.

As the evening went on and discussions carried forward we began placing our orders for dinner. When I did I also put in an order for what they called their “Austin Flight” which was an all Austin based sampling of beers.

This included a Pilsner, an IPA, a Vienna Lager and an Amber Ale. I wish I could tell you the breweries but I wasn’t fast enough to write them down, much less hear them correctly with the background chatter surrounding me. I can say they were all good examples of each style and very tasty. They also complemented the dinner of Tilapia served with capers on linguine and mixed veggies.

And I have to give a mention to the delicious Blackberry Ginger Cheesecake that was made on site. A very tasty dessert.

That evening drew to a close and we went into the last day of the conference with all of the associated sessions. By 5 PM the conference was ended and many folks had gone on their way to their respective destinations. My colleagues and I weren’t returning until the next day, so we spent Wednesday evening with one last journey into the Austin air. We decided to follow a recommendation (from several sources) for local BBQ, Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, located on Congress Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Being a short walking distance from the hotel didn’t hurt.

We arrived just before the customary line out the door started. In fact, it started forming behind us as there was a small line to get in to put your order inside. While waiting on the inside line I ordered another local beer, National Park Hefeweizen from Big Bend Brewing.

This was a very tasty Hefe and paired well with the BBQ Pork Ribs and Brisket I ordered for my meal. It also went well with the cole slaw, grilled corn on the cob, and the jalapeno-bacon-mac & cheese that I had for the sides.

That was some of the best BBQ I have had at a restaurant ever! I highly recommend this place if you find yourself in Austin. Not only is the BBQ very good but the beer selection is great as well. There are two levels of seating as well as outdoor seating and they were filling up by the time we left.

We decided to take a stroll and found ourselves heading north for the Capitol building. Unknown to me until informed by the Supershuttle driver who brought me from the Airport, the Capitol in Austin is the largest Capitol in the US. And after having seen it in person I believe her (see pics below).

After walking to the Capitol and making our way back to the hotel, I decided one final draft was in order, so I went to the hotel bar and ordered a perfect dessert beer to top off the evening, the Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout from Independence Brewing.

This smooth coffee/chocolate/oatmeal flavored stout was the perfect cap to an evening

In the morning, I arose and showered then began to pack and decided to get breakfast at the hotel. The view was cloudy but pretty and the breakfast was a tex/mex fave of mine, Huevos Rancheros.

The layer of beans covered with sausage and a couple over easy eggs, topped with avocado and a grilled jalapeno was a perfect “I’m going to be traveling all day and don’t know when I will eat.” type of breakfast. A good final meal to say goodbye to Texas with.

My only complaint about the trip would be how beer is served in Austin, and this may be true throughout Texas. I don’t like drinking from a can. No matter how good the packaging technology may be, psychologically I still taste metal. And I don’t like that they serve their beers in frosted glasses. In fact, when I asked for a non-frosted glass the bar person looked at me like I was crazy. They obviously haven’t been taught in Texas that frosting the beer glass masks the flavor of the beer. And while the beers I had tasted good, I really didn’t get their true flavor because they were all masked. That is a bit disappointing in a town that pride’s itself on craft beer.

I would like to add that I have been to Texas many times in the past, (San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and parts in between) and none of those visits has been as rewarding as this one. I would readily take a trip to Austin again, whether on business or as a vacation destination. I cannot say that of the other parts of Texas I have been to.

A no-show of a co-pilot delayed my connecting flight in Atlanta by about a hour and half so I didn’t get back into Gainesville until after 8 PM that Thursday. So I was unable to pick-up Tucker from the Doctor’s house until the next day. Luckily for me, the Doctor was able to keep Tucker entertained while I was away.

So much so that he slept well while he was there.

So now I am home and spending my Easter with my little beer hound. I hope all of you are getting to spend Easter with your loved ones and enjoying the day.

Maybe you’re hunting for eggs or for a new tradition that seems to catching on beers.

Most of all I hope you’re enjoying the holiday meals that have been prepared, both the traditional and non-traditional.

However you are spending the day, whether based in faith, or in spending time with family and/or friends, or both I hope you enjoy the colors and flavors of the day and match them up well with your favorite ale!

Papabear

Craft Beer Stroganoff!

I love using alcohol based marinades!! And no it’s not because I am a drunk, that’s a separate topic altogether.

It’s because the alcohol in the product helps to tenderize the meat. It also Imparts some of the flavors of the product into the meat. And I like to use different products for different dishes.

I love using a good red wine to make my homemade marinara. The wine helps break up some of the acidity of the tomatoes.

I love making my Cowboy Baked Beans with a good bourbon, or a brandy depending on the other ingredients. The bourbon helps the molasses and brown sugar mix well with the navy beans and the beef or sausage.

When I make chili or beer batter I like to use a lager, pilsner or pale ale. They all mix well with the spices I put in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s beef, pork or turkey. Some of these also go well with fish marinade but that depends on the fish. Some fish need a stronger flavor.

Now, with Stouts, Porters, Barleywines, Old Ales and Scotch Ales I like to make either a BBQ sauce or use it for marinating beef. Beef needs a stronger flavor for a marinade and depending on the dish the higher alcohol content can help break down fats.

I have not made beef stroganoff in a while and this was the first time using a beer marinade. Usually I do a combination of Worcestershire and Soy Sauce for a marinade and only let it set for 20 minutes in the fridge. For this marinade I decided to use Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout for a couple reasons:

  1. It was the oldest stout in my fridge and I wanted to use it before it went bad.
  2. I liked the mouthfeel of this stout and thought it would lend itself well to the beef stroganoff.
  3. I tend to try to line up my beers in single file on the shelf and using this one would open up room for a new six pack. I know… Kinda OCD of me… but hey.. it’s my fridge. You arrange yours the way you want it and don’t worry about mine.
Pairs well with Ice Cream too!

So if you’re interested, the recipe is below. It was delicious by the way. So much so that the sauce from the stroganoff tasted so good I had to use biscuits to sop up the remainder.

Stout Marinade Beef Stroganoff served with a biscuit and paired with a Weyerbacher Tiny Imperial Stout

Stout Marinade Beef Stroganoff

This recipe is for crockpot cooking, so cooking time will be much less if you cook on the stove top.

Prep Time: Marinade overnight; Prep time before crock pot turns on 20 minutes; prep time for thickening sauce 5 mins; crockpot cook time 10 – 11 hours.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of cubed beef (chuck roast, steak or in my case kebab meat)
  • 1- 12 oz. bottle of your preferred Stout Beer
  • 2 large Vidalia onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 lb. of sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cups of beef broth
  • 2 carrots chopped into big sections
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Ground Thyme
  • 3 tbsp. Sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped Parsley
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Place the beef in a stainless steel (or other equally suitable bowl) large enough to hold the beef and the bottle of beer. Make sure to cover the beef thoroughly in the beer and place a cover over the container and let in marinade in the refrigerator over night.

In the morning, chop onions into 1/4 to 1/2 inch squares and line bottom of crockpot. Place garlic on top. Take beef from marinade container and place into crock pot, keeping it from contacting sides. Place sliced mushrooms around beef between crock pot wall and beef. Place chopped carrot pieces and two bay leaves on top of beef. Pour any remaining marinade, Worcestershire, soy sauce and beef broth over beef. Cover crock pot and cook on low a minimum of 8 hours, maximum of 10 hours. Do not remove cover during cooking.

When the first stage is complete you can remove the carrots and bay leaves. You can set the carrots aside for something else but dispose of the bay leaves. Add the remaining ingredients as a thickener except mix the two cups of milk and the 2 tbsp of flour into a roué and stir into the mix. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Let cook on low another 30 to 45 minutes and it will be ready for serving.

I like to serve on a bed of buttered wide egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream and some parsley sprinkled on top, accompanied by a biscuit and paired with a good stout. For the picture above I used the Weyerbacher Tiny Imp Stout, which went very well with the meal. Try these stouts or your own favorite in the recipe.

Papabear

Holiday Craft Beer Recipes

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In case all of the commercials and ads for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, all of the shiny glowing decorations along the streets, all of the radio stations playing holiday music related to their format and all of the chintzy holiday related TV shows wasn’t a hint enough for you that we are in full blown holiday mode, then all of the seasonal releases of holiday craft beer flooding the shelves, should be.

I thought I would offer up some recommended ales and holiday recipes involving craft beer for spicing up your seasonal favorites. Now for me, the holiday season starts out on November 11th, Veteran’s Day. Being a Vet myself, I always like sitting back and remembering those who have served, especially those who served with me. That remembrance included Ayinger’s Hefeweizen and their Oktoberfest Marzen, both excellent examples of German beers, where I served for 2 years in the 50th TAC Fighter Wing.

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The next day I spent the afternoon at Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville for the Florida Brewer’s Guild Barrel Aged and Sour Beer Fest. This was the second year in a row I attended this beerfest and it was, again, worth it. I could name all of the beers I enjoyed but that in itself would be an article. Instead I will recommend going to the FBG website and download the list yourself. I didn’t have a single one that wasn’t worth trying, but I couldn’t try them all.

On Thanksgiving Eve I began the holiday weekend with Funky Buddha’s Sweet Potato Casserole. An ale so good I had to fight Tucker off from trying to steal it from me.

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For Thanksgiving Day, I decided to smoke a turkey and a ham, and while the process was going on I enjoyed supping back the Big Deal Chocolate Cherry Imperial Stout from Darwin Brewing, a really tasty stout with a great finish.

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After the turkey and ham were done cooking I accompanied them both along with some other traditional fare with a bottle of 2013 Trignac XII, a Tripel aged in Cognac barrels, which accompanies all the dishes well.

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The day after, Black Friday, after coming home from happy hour I decided to make my annual egg-nog, But I also wanted to try a little experiment and decided to make a double batch, with a portion of the second batch I would add a wee heavy ale to the mix. I thought the flavors of the ale, especially a good one, would enhance the bourbon, cognac and rum in the eggnog. For the ale I chose a bottle of Founder’s Backwoods Bastard. Only one more week to wait before it will be ready for sampling. To give credit where credit is due, for my egg-nog recipe I use Alton Brown’s recipe which you can find on Foodnetwork.com.

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Which brings us to this weekend, where today I used the remainder of my leftover turkey to make Turkey Chili. Now you may remember reading above where I smoked a turkey and a ham on Thanksgiving. When I cook a turkey I include the giblets and the neck in the pan for roasting or smoking, so that I can get the rich flavors and juices from those parts into any gravy I make. In this case, I used the cooked liver and heart along with the white and dark meat from the bird and cut them up into small pieces. I also used a Pilsner along with some other ingredients (see below) and cooked them in a crockpot all day. The results were not only delicious but if you’re in a cold climate I highly recommend it. Definitely something to keep you warm in the winter months.

Papabear’s Smoked Turkey and Pilsner Chili:

  • 2 Medium sweet onions – chopped
  • 1 ½ Cups of chopped celery
  • 1 ½ cups of chopped carrot
  • 3 large jalapenos (deseeded and sliced)
  • 3 cans of navy beans
  • 1 can whole kernel corn
  • 2 pounds of smoked turkey (cubed)
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • ½ tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
  • 16 oz. Pilsner (I used Marten’s in this case) – you could also use an IPA or a Wheat beer.

Add all ingredients in the order above into 6 quart crockpot or dutch oven. Top off with enough water to just cover ingredients, then cook on high for 8 hours.

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When serving top off with shredded cheddar cheese and serve with corn chips, crackers or rolls.

More recipes will be coming in the days to follow but wanted to get these, and the list of beers of to you while I had time.

Happy Holidays,

Papabear

Homemade Belgian, Mushroom and Beef Stew – In With the Cold & Out Comes the Crockpot

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It’s that time of the year in North Central Florida where the temperatures have finally dropped to a comfortable range. The last few days have been in the 40s and 50s overnight and in the 70s during the day. Doors and windows are being opened to let fresh air in and some folks are breaking out the winter wear.

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This is also the time of year that will see an uptick in the types of foods that provide warmth, particularly chilis, soups and stews. My first creation of the crockpot season is a variation of an old fashioned beef stew.

Sometimes I follow a particular recipe and sometimes I like to experiment with flavors I may available or may be craving. When I purchased some of the ingredients I had a hankering for beef, potatoes, carrots and zucchini. If I had been grilling it might have been kabobs or grilled steak with a side of these veggies mixed with olive oil and cooked in tin foil.

The other ingredients are spices that I normally have lying around, Vidalia Onions which are my favorite onions, and a bottle of Shipyard Brewing’s Blood Orange Belgian Style.

Ingredients for Belgian Mushroom and Beef Stew:

  • 2 lbs. Stewing Beef
  • 1 lbs. Portobello Mushrooms (sliced)
  • 3 Yukon Potatoes (cut into half inch cubes)
  • 2 Vidalia Onions (cubed)
  • 2 cups of cut carrots (cut into 1 inch pieces and halved)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 12 oz. bottle Belgian
  • 1 teaspoon Soy Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt to taste
  • additional water as needed

I prepped the night before by taking two pounds of stewing beef and putting it in a bowl with a teaspoon of Soy Sauce, a tablespoon of Worcestershire and the 12 ounces of Belgian beer and mixing them in a bowl. Place a cover on the bowl and put into the refrigerator overnight. (Overnight may seem long but I wanted to start the crockpot cooking before I went into work.)

In the morning I began the crockpot build by adding the remaining ingredients in this order:

  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • garlic
  • bay leaf
  • thyme
  • marinated beef pieces
  • black pepper
  • Cajun seasoning
  • remaining tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • Mushrooms
  • leftover marinade juice

I turned the crockpot on low and went to work. When I got home at the end of the day this is what I saw:

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I sampled the stew and liked the flavor but added a little more salt and a cup of water, and let it cook for another hour.

While it was cooking I tried to decide what to pair it with and decided to go with the Victory Brewing’s Liquid Luxury V12, a Belgian Quad and very delicious on it’s own.

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After the stew was ready, I turned the crockpot off and sliced some French bread into 1 inch slices and smeared some butter and garlic powder on them then toasted them in a toaster over.

Okay, let’s be honest Belgians go with pretty much anything so the Victory V12 was no risk at all. And I always prefer a hard roll or garlic bread to go with my soups and stews. So for me that seemed natural as well.

The stew was a little risky, but I was shooting for a flavor similar to a French onion, which I believe I got as close as I can without actually making a French onion soup. The onion flavor was subtle and if you substitute Yellow onions for Vidalia onions it would certainly enhance that flavor. The carrots and zucchini added a sweetness, which is why I used the Cajun seasoning to balance it.

Overall it was a great stew. I loved the texture of the ingredients and the flavor combinations along with the pairing of the garlic bread and the Belgian beer.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

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Papabear

 

Lord of the Drinks: The Fellowship of the Drink

It’s been a while since an epistle has been posted here so I thought I’d better blow some dust of the keyboard and give you all something to read before you lose interest. The title for the article comes from two sources:

1 – The Doctor seems to want to keep comparing me to Gandalf from the Middle Earth tales of J.R.R. Tolkien, which I just don’t get….

Looking in a mirror

2 – And it occurred to me during one of my evenings out during the last couple of weeks that quite often in life strong bonds of friendship, camaraderie and fellowship are often formed in our lives with the aid or at least accompaniment of alcohol.

Now this may seem obvious to some of you. But really strong bonds with other people are usually formed in the following ways:

Strong shared emotional distress – the birth, serious illness or death of a family member is an example.

Strong shared physical and mental stress – this is why men and women who have served in the military together have a bond with each other that last the rest of their lives.

And when barriers have been removed and open and honest words and feelings are exchanged – this is where the alcohol comes in.

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Now since my last posting I have had more than a few outings involving craft beer. On July 4th weekend I visited my sister in Coral Springs and the night that I arrived we went to a nearby eatery, Nick’s New Haven Style Pizzeria and Bar, and enjoyed some Italian food and Craft Beer.

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The next day we sat beside the pool and grilled out and drank craft beer that I had brought with me and some that my brother-in-law had bought at Lucky’s market, We also had some very good Dominican Rum and cigars as well.

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The next weekend I started by meeting Rowdy and the Cooler at Gainesville House of Beer, along with the Doctor and the Deck-orator joined us as well. The standout that day was Weyerbacher’s 21st Anniversary Ale, and the fact that Rowdy had returned from a trip to Cuba with some hand-rolled cigars and some Cuban beer, which I drank later that weekend.

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A few days later Rowdy and I met at First Magnitude brewery after work where they were having a Funky Buddha tap takeover. I had Funky Buddha Wide Awake It’s Morning chocolate stout and then had First Mag’s British Strong Ale, which was a very good strong ale by the way.

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That following Friday I met up with the Maestro at the Hop Top which isn’t far from his place, and we were joined by Rowdy and the Amester. I started by toasting my father’s birthday with his go=to beer, a PBR. I finished that as quickly as I could. They also had a few taps featuring Funky Buddha which we availed ourselves of. For me the stand out that evening was Funky’s Vanilla Espresso Piiti Porter.

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Again on a Tuesday, the 19th, I went to another craft beer related event at a local sub shop called Hogan’s Heros. They were starting what they called a Craft Beer Tour, where you get a card featuring beer’s from local breweries Swamp Head and First Magnitude. As you get different brews from the breweries you get symbols signed off on the card and when it is full you get a t-shirt of some kind. The Maestro joined me there on his way back from some event.

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That following Thursday I met the Doctor and the Maestro at BrassTap, where they were having a Founder’s Brewing Tap Takeover. And the same rep from Founder’s, a pretty young lady named Kelly who really knows her beers, was also at this event. I got a chance to talk to her this time about how great the beer pairing dinner at the Top was and asked if they were planning any other dinners like it. And she asked me if any other restaurant’s in town had the quality of food that the Top had and served craft beer. I gave her a few names but we’ll have to see how that plays out.

The maestro ended leaving after two beers to go bowling and the Doctor and I hung out with Allen while Trivia night was playing out. Then after a bit we went out on the patio and smoked a Cuban that Rowdy had given to each of us. We sat out there for a while, enjoying a nice beer with a cigar, then after a bit we were joined by a young veteran who was looking for a friend of his. We started talking for a bit and I offered him a cigar and he and the Doctor and I enjoyed some Philosophying for a bit.

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My next event was not Craft Beer related but was just as much fun as it was the last Tuesday of the month so that meant that the Wine Pairing Dinner at Leonardo’s 706 was going on. That evening was little different as both Maestro and the Muse were out of town as was Rowdy and Cooler and another couple who normally joins our table. But Sam and Barbara, whom I know from the Wine Tasting Class days, were there as were Will and Edo, who have recently started doing the wine tasting dinners.

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The theme was a taste of Maine so the main course was lobster, and even though I can’t eat a lot of shellfish without digestive problems, the little bit of lobster that I did have was delicious. And it paired very well with the Merlot that Gonzolo had brought for the dinner. Which brings us to this weekend…

Last night I met the Maestro at House of Beer after I got out of work. And we caught up with each other, drank beer and philosophied for a bit. The he called the Muse and she joined us there and had a glass of wine while we finished our beers. When that was done we decided to go down to the Artwalk, which is an annual event in Gainesville. We specifically went to see one lady’s showing because she used to work with the Maestro way back. Her name is Leslie and I have to say I was very impressed with some of her work.

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After the art, we decided to go around the corner and see if we could get a table at Emiliano’s for dinner. Luckily the students aren’t fully back in town yet, and we could get a table. We ordered some food and switched to a bottle of red wine for dinner. The Maestro and I both ordered the Puerco Rico and the Muse had a chicken dish that I have had before and enjoyed but now can’t remember the name. Honestly, though, it doesn’t matter because I haven’t had anything yet from Emiliano’s that I didn’t like. And last evening was no exception.

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So this morning I reflected a little on the last month and realized that most of the social activity has involved alcohol in one form or another. And it was not over-indulgence in the drinks, just enough to relax you and make you feel like talking. The company I kept was the most important part of it. And it was family and friends who I mostly had some strong bonds with. But during this time those bonds were strengthened. We all enjoyed each other’s companies and grew closer as friends and family.

If there are any folks out there who think alcohol is the devil’s work and would advocate for a return to the days of prohibition, I would like to remind you of a couple of things. One, prohibition was more responsible than anything else for the rise of organized crime in the United States when it was enacted.

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Two, it isn’t alcohol that’s the problem for folks that have problems with it. It’s the over indulgence of it. Over indulgence in most things isn’t a good thing. And while it’s never good to see people suffering from their weaknesses, is it just to prohibit other’s from enjoying themselves because of others weaknesses??

So if anyone out there thinks that try to get Prohibition enacted again is a good idea, I have a message for you from Gandalf…

shall-not-pass

Papabear

The Art of Beer Pt 6 – Food Pairing (What Goes With What) – A Beer Pairing Dinner at the Top Restaurant

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If you have read my other articles on the Art of Beer then you have read me quote my old wine tasting teacher and Sommelier, George Sternfels, when he said, “If you like the wine, drink the wine!”

George Sternfels

Now when he said this what he meant was that taste is a very personal choice. How you, or I or anyone else tastes the exact same thing could be completely different. In the end what matters is that you like what you are drinking. He also commented on the general rule that reds are for pork or beef and whites are for fish or chicken. He said, “I have a preference for reds and if I’m eating fish I may not want a white, so I’ll order a red.” But he also knew that certain flavors complemented each other. Certain whites go along much better with a dessert than others, and some reds enhance the spice in a particular dish while others may cover it up.

The same is very true of beer, especially craft beer. But even ordinary American Style Lagers go better with some foods more than others. I can remember for years that I loved lagers with hamburgers or hot dogs or pizza, and of course pretzels, But I have never been able to drink beer while eating pasta without feeling all bloated and unable to do anything else after. You may have experienced the same problem, if not with pasta then with another food.

Now with the rise of craft beer and the multitude of flavors and styles that came with it the opportunity to find a beer that I can eat with pasta has come, not to mention all of the other food and beer combinations that are now available.

The one thing to remember is that when we combine all of these different flavors, what we are really doing is creating new chemical compounds that will react differently with each other. When you are tasting food, what is happening is the chemicals in the food are reacting with the chemicals on your tastes buds to activate certain flavor sensors in your brain. When you drink a liquid with that food then our taste buds are reacting again to a different chemical combination. That’s why when you drink water after eating really spicy-hot foods it makes it worse because the water is simply spreading the flavor around even more in your mouth, but if you eat cheese or drink milk this dissipates the heat from the spice and lets you continue with your eating.

Certain beers go better with spicy foods, and others complement sweet foods better. Some beers are too strong for chicken or fish, and others can’t stand up to beef or wild game.

Two excellent examples just happened recently. The first involves my own homemade marinara sauce. I like to use wine, preferably red, and a little honey in my sauce. This gives it a little sweetness and helps cut down on some of the acidity of the tomatoes. And the wine also imparts its own flavor into the sauce. I used a little bit of a bottle of Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, which is a very fruity medium bodied Italian wine which I really enjoy. It was also one of the last bottles I purchased back when I was taking the above mentioned wine tasting classes from George and since he has since passed I had been holding onto it as long as possible. But it was a 2009 vintage and I wouldn’t be able to hold onto it too much longer so I decided to use it to make the sauce a few weeks ago and had the rest with dinner.

Now a couple of weeks later I had some leftover sauce that I took out of the freezer and served over a couple of veal parmesan patties. I had spent the day working in the yard and decided to treat myself to a rich dinner afterwards. I wanted to treat myself to a nice beer with dinner but wasn’t sure which to serve. I narrowed it down between two choices, Boulevard Brewing’s Sixth Glass, which is a very nice and smooth Belgian Quad, and Founder’s Brewing Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, which is a great Scotch Ale. I decided that I want to go with one of these because they are both a little higher in alcohol and that might help bring out some of the wine flavor.

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And since I was having a hard time deciding I decided to start the dinner with one and finish it with the other. I started with the Belgian, and was really pleasantly surprised at how well it paired with the homemade red sauce. I was right about the higher alcohol content bringing out the wine flavor of the sauce. But the hoppy flavors also complimented the veal and the sauce.

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The Scotch Ale came next and like the Belgian, the higher alcohol content brought out the wine flavor, but the scotch flavor did not compliment the red sauce. It did not make the sauce taste bad, nor did the sauce affect the ale flavor, but they just didn’t pop like the Belgian/Red Sauce combination did.

Now, I will confess that I like both of these ales independently very much. I have been fortunate lately to come across some really good Belgians and have come to enjoy that style a lot more lately than before. And the Wee Heavy or Scotch Ales have been really outstanding in their own rights for the last couple of years. I also have to confess to a preconception going in that the Scotch Ale would fare better than the Belgian. I really like the products that have been coming out of Founders Brewing over the last few years and can’t remember one lately that I did not like. Generally speaking, while I really enjoy both styles I would have to admit leaning toward the Scotch Ale more than the Belgian.

But why, when pairing them with very tasty veal parmesan, did the Belgian pair better? And why did the Scotch Ale not pair so well with this dish when I really like that ale so much?

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The second example also happened recently and involved a Beer Pairing dinner, hosted by the Top Restaurant in Gainesville, and featuring a line-up of some excellent beers from Founders Brewing, the same company that made the above mentioned scotch ale. If you’ve been in Gainesville very long then you must have been to the Top, And you are probably well aware of the fact that they can cook anything from a burger to a traditional gourmet dish with equal zest and triumph. It is probably one of the best restaurants in town, if not in the state of Florida.

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Like some other Pairing dinners I have been to featuring wine, this was a five course dinner, with each course paired with a different flavor or style of beer from this particular brewery. They also had a welcoming beer to introduce you to what Founders is. And the beer they used for that was the All Day IPA, a really great smooth tasting IPA. The young lady who is the North Florida representative for Founders, I believe her name is Kelly, gave the dinner guests a brief history of Founders and how they came to be and with each beer style she gave a little background on how it came about.

After she did her intro they began bringing out the first course and the beer that would accompany it.

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The first course was a Goat Cheese and Corn Soup with a Crab Beignet. And the beer paired with it was the recent release called Devil Dancer IPA. This IPA had a bit more hoppiness to it than the All Day, but it complimented the sweet and creamy flavor of the soup and the beignet very well.

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The second course was a Fried Farmer’s Egg, Roasted red Pepper Butter Sauce, Asparagus and Micro Mizuna. It was paired with the Founders Mosaic Promise Single Hop Ale. I am not generally a big asparagus fan but I can eat it. But the red pepper sauce and the Farmer’s egg both helped it go down and the Mosaic helped bring out some of the spiciness of the pepper sauce.

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The third course was Sweat Pea Ravioli with Tomato Confit and was served with Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale. I really like old ales and this is one of the better ones out there. And it complimented the flavors of the sweet peas and the tomato confit very well. And I did not get that full feeling from eating the pasta with a beer.

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The fourth (and the main course) was a Pork tenderloin served on top of Smoked Gouda Grits with a Red Eye Jus and accompanied by Fava Beans. The paired beer was Founders KBS Bourbon Stout (Kentucky Breakfast Stout). It’s brewed with chocolate and coffee and aged in oak barrels for a year, and is very much worth the wait. And when paired with the dinner grew on me even more than before.

The oaky flavor complimented the pork and helped bring out the smoke gouda flavor in the grits. And the chocolate/coffee combo went really well with the red sauce.

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Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, they brought out the dessert course. It was Toasted Coconut Panna Cotta, Pineapple & Mint Salsa, Grilled Pineapple and Mango, Mint Oil and Pina Colada Ice Cream. It was paired with Founders Mango Magnifico Fruit Beer. I have to say, normally I don’t like coconut in any form. The texture makes me want to gag, and the flavor reminds me of the texture. But this combination of flavors with the dessert, especially when paired with the mango beer was so excellent a combination that the texture didn’t even faze me.

I have to say if the opportunity comes again for another beer pairing dinner, either at the Top or featuring Founders beers, count me in!

But why did these beers from Founders all pair well why the Dirty Bastard I served with my veal parmesan at home not do so well?

The answer is Balance.

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Certain flavors and interactions arise in certain styles of beer and these need to be counterbalanced in the food to complement each other.

For example, Hop Bitterness and Roasted Malt flavors and a higher alcohol content or carbonization balance well with sweetness, savory and fat content. That is why some of the heavy ales that have been brewed with bacon tasted well, or cooked well with it.

Sweet or Malty beers balance well against spicy foods or high acidity.

And Hoppy beers balance well against spicy foods.

So the reason the Belgian went well with my homemade red sauce and veal parmesan is that hoppiness and higher alcohol content helped to balance out the sweet and savory flavors I had working in the sauce.

While the heavy ale had the alcohol content to battle the flavors it had too much of the oakiness to blend well with the other flavors.

A friend from work, Steven, came with me to the dinner and he is not quite the beer connoisseur that I am. I don’t think he liked the Old Curmudgeon or the Mango Magnifico as much as I did, but he did agree that when he tried it with the food served with them that he liked them better.

So if there is a beer out there you don’t care for as much as you do others, there may be hope if someone has served an appropriate food flavor to go along with it.

But in the end, I’ll still stick with George’s advice with one caveat…

If you like the beer, drink the beer. If it doesn’t pair well, then change the food.

Papabear

Cooking with Beer: Glazes with a Beer Base

A ham with cloves for flavor in the background and Nettles country Sausages in the foreground,
A ham with cloves for flavor in the background and Nettles Country Sausages in the foreground.

I haven’t fired up the smoker in a while and decided today would be the day. I had a ham in the fridge I have been wanting to put in the smoker for a bit but haven’t had any wood for smoking until I finally went to Walmart and picked up some hickory wood chunks. Tip #1: If you need to go to Walmart on a Sunday, do it so you’re out of there before Noon. It was kind of quiet when I got there but by the time I got all of my goods and headed for the checkout it was a cluster.

When I got home I put some of the hickory chunks in a bucket and filled it with water then started cleaning the grill and getting it ready for a fire. I then started a fire under the chimney containing the charcoal briquettes and went inside to prep the ham while the briquettes started heating up. I removed the wrapping from a simple shoulder ham and began piercing the flesh with some cloves, and old trait of my mother’s. I was beginning to feel a bit peckish so I opened up a pack of Nettles Country Sausage while I was at it. I could cook those fairly quickly and let the ham cook at the same time.

Now if you have never used a smoker before it takes practice to learn how to keep your smoker at the right temperature. Too hot and you’ll over cook the outer part of the meat. And too cold and you risk bacteria getting into the food that you are cooking because you’re taking too long. And every style of smoker has its own way of controlling the temperature, though in general it usually involves controlling how much air you let into the fire and how much smoke you let out. If you don’t have a smoker and only have a gas or charcoal grill you can still use them for smoking you just have to use the right accessories to do so. Tip #2: Don’t try smoking indoors in your oven. The smoke smell will permeate every part of your house and you’ll be forever getting that smell out of the oven. It will make everything you cook after that tastes like smoke and unless you smoke cigarettes that is probably not a good thing. Even using the artificial smoke flavoring can let the smoke smell permeate the oven.

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My combination gas/charcoal; grille and smoker hard at work.

You read earlier that I was using hickory for my smoking wood. There are several different types out there; Cherry, Pecan, Oak, Applewood and Mesquite are a few. I prefer hickory myself. Though I may try others down the road as they all have different characteristics. But I just really like the flavor that hickory leaves in the meat.

The charcoal coals were glowing red then so I knew it was time to put the meat on the grill. I arranged the ham on tin foil shaped to catch any drippings like a bowl and placed it on the grill furthest from the flame box. Then I laid out the sausages on the half closest to the flame. This would allow them to take the brunt of the heat so they could cook faster. With the lid closed the ham would also get heated and begin cooking. After I closed the lid I opened the door of the fire box and added a few chunks of hickory that had been soaking in water. The red hot coals began converting any water trapped in the wood to steam and the wood itself slowly began to burn releasing the smoky flavor I was looking for.

Inside the firebox
Inside the firebox

After about 15-20 minutes I rolled the sausages 180 degrees and let the other side get some of the heat from the fire. Then after 15-20 minutes I flipped the sausages end to end so that the end furthest from the firebox got some equal treatment. I also moved the sausages around on the griddle so those in the middle were swapped with those on the outside. And about 15 minutes later I rolled the sausages 180 degrees again. Each time after I opened the lid I added a couple chunks of wet hickory to the firebox.

After the sausages were cooked I removed them from the grill and slid the ham onto the side of the grill closer to the firebox. I put a couple more chunks of wood into the firebox then went inside and had a sausage for my lunch. If you have never had a Nettles sausage then I recommend them. They’re very tasty and if you like heat then the hot ones are for you. I like mine in a roll or sausage bun with a slice of cheddar and some mustard. I decided to drink a Shotgun Betty Witbier with my lunch which went with the sausage very well. Tip #3 Nettles sausages go very well with a witbier.

I spent the rest of the afternoon adding a couple of Hunks of wet wood to the firebox every 20 minutes or so, and supping down a nice saison while doing so. About 3 hours into cooking the ham I knew I needed to make my glaze. Now normally I make a pineapple-brown sugar glaze. But I didn’t have any pineapple juice or pineapples in either the whole or canned form to get juice from. So I decided to make a glaze with a craft beer base instead. Tip #4 When you run out of ingredients improvise with Craft Beer.

Now I know some folks have talking up Craft Beer marinades and I have used a couple myself but I have not heard of anyone making a glaze yet. Glazes are different from a marinade. First of all the marinade soaks into the meat helping to tenderize it. A Glaze is an outer coating that only imparts flavor to that portion of the meat. After cooking the juices from the meat combined with the glaze make a nice little topping for the meat.

My normal pineapple-brown sugar glaze is pretty much just that: pineapple juice, brown sugar and some mustard to balance out the sweetness. I lso place the pineapple rings around the ham with toothpicks. A good glaze compliments the meat so for a ham which is normally saltier a sweet glaze is desirable. But adding a craft beer base to the glaze instead of pineapple juice would change the flavor aspects depending on the style of beer used. A strong hop flavor with it’s bitterness would probably amplify the saltiness of the ham which isn’t what I wanted so that filtered out IPAs, APAs, etc. I also had to take into account the hickory smoke flavor I have been adding all afternoon. I still wanted to taste that flavor so I decided against a wheat beer or a gose as those would probably dampen the smoke flavor.

I was leaning toward either a porter or a stout when I realized I had the perfect accompaniment already selected… a scotch style ale. And to be more specific, Founder’s Dirty Bastard scotch style ale. I can hear some folks out there now, “What on Earth are you thinking?! Why waste such a great beer on something like a glaze?!”

To you I will reply, any great recipe is only as good as the ingredients you put into it. And anything that deserves to be done well should be done right from the beginning. Besides, whether it’s in a glass or a glaze I’m still going to be consuming that beer.

I’ll tell you the ingredients now:

Mustard, Brown Sugar, a bottle of founder's Dirty Bastard and a bowl and whisk for mixing.
Mustard, Brown Sugar, a bottle of founder’s Dirty Bastard and a bowl and whisk for mixing.
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 oz. scotch ale
  • 2 Tbsp yellow mustard

Now I will add the disclaimer that these measurements are ballpark and not exact. I’ve been making the normal glaze for so long than I kind of eyeballed the ingredients. The best practice though is to taste the glaze as you’re making it and adjust the ingredients accordingly.

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First I put the brown sugar into a large enough bowl for mixing then I added the beer and using a whisk mixed them thoroughly. This combination became expectedly frothy and foamy once the sugar began dissolving. On top of the foam I added the yellow mustard. You can use ground mustard in place of the paste I used but then you may want to add a dash of vinegar to get the same flavor. Then I mixed this in thoroughly with the beer-sugar combo.

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By the time this was done mixing it was time to start the last half hour of smoking. So I took the glaze and began applying it with a silicone brush trying to cover as much of the ham with the glaze as I could. Once I had that applied I loaded the last of the wet wood chunks into the firebox and let the smoker do its thing. I took any unused glaze back inside the kitchen and set it aside for later.

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When the smoking was done I placed the smoked ham in a dish for carving and poured any of the glaze that in the bottom of the tin foil I had cooked the ham in on top of the ham in the dish. The ham carved fairly easily, even through the caramelizing on the skin section where the glaze has made it chewy. Once I got done carving I placed a couple of pieces on a plate and served it with the remainder of the Founder’s Dirty Bastard in a mug. If I have to say so myself, it was delicious!

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The hickory flavoring came through in each bite of the ham and the glaze complemented it well. I could taste the sweetness of the sugar, the spice of the mustard and the dark malty flavor of the scotch ale. None of the flavors over-powered another. Well worth the effort and the wait.

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Good results like this can only lead to more experimentation.  Try some yourself and…

Tip @#5

Enjoy!

Papabear

 

Cooking with Beer: Experimental Chili X3

When cooking with Craft Beer, it is important to remember that these beers will impart their distinct flavors into the finished product, just like good wines do.

If you have done any cooking with the normal American Lagers then you know that even these beers which are lighter in flavor impart a little bit of themselves into the recipes they are used in. Now, imagine the difference that using Craft Beer, with it’s much stronger flavors and varying degrees of higher alcohol content, would make.

Others have been experimenting with beer parings and recipes (I like the Beeroness’ recipes myself), but I wanted to try my hand at and thought I would share the results with you.

I decided to try a little experiment using some different craft beers in a variation of my chili recipe just to see the differences that would make in taste.

Ingredients for my 3 Meat 3 Bean Chili from L-R: One can Southwest Corn; 1 lb. each of cooked ground beef, breakfast sausage, and cubed chicken; one quart jar of dried pinto, black and kidney beans; 1 can each of diced tomatoes with chilis and another with onion and garlic; one large chopped onion; cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper and salt to taste; and three separate types of beers.
Ingredients are similar for my 3 Meat 3 Bean Chili from L-R: One can Southwest Corn; 1 lb. each of cooked ground beef, breakfast sausage, and cubed chicken; one quart jar of dried pinto, black and kidney beans; 1 can each of diced tomatoes with chilis and another with onion and garlic; one large chopped onion; cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper and salt to taste; and three separate types of beers.

For clarities sake, this is not my full blown chili recipe so I will not go into details about the contents but will focus instead about the beers used and the flavors they imparted.

I have one of those 3 pot slow-cookers that you can use to cook multiple dishes at once. So I basically divided my ingredients into three equal portions and split them among the three pots. The only difference between the pots was the beer I used.

The 3 chilis cooking
The 3 beer chilis cooking

I had multiple beers types to choose from in the fridge but decided to limit it to three types, an IPA, a Wheat Beer and a Brown Ale. I also had Pale Ales, Belgians, a Porter and a couple of Stouts to choose from but thought the Pale Ale I had would get buried under the chili spices and the others were to complex for this go-a-round of experimentation.

I selected Blowing Rock IPA, a decent enough IPA from Blowing Rock Brewing; Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen, a good example of an American Hefe from Lonerider Brewing Co.; and Bell’s Best Brown Ale, from Bell’s Brewery Inc., which is one of the better brown ales available.

From L-R the chilis and their respective beers: Blowing Rock IPA, Shotgun betty Hefeweizen and Bell's Best Brown Ale.
From L-R the chilis and their respective beers: Blowing Rock IPA, Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen and Bell’s Best Brown Ale.

Normally when I make chili I like to serve it with cheese and onions and, depending on the chili, a bit of sour cream. And I like it to be accompanied by corn chips, or homemade rolls or at the very least crackers. For this I did without the sour cream, chips, rolls and crackers, though I did keep the cheese. Even so it was a mild shredded cheddar. I wanted it to balance out the heat I cook into chili.

IPA Chili with a sample of blowing Rock IPA
IPA Chili with a sample of blowing Rock IPA

First up was the IPA Chili. I could smell hints of citrus in the chili and tasted it slightly as well. I could taste the other ingredients of the chili but it was damped down a lit bit making it just an ok dish. The IPA accompanying it tasted just like an IPA should. I think this showed that when serving an IPA based dish an IPA goes best with it.

Hefeweizein Chili with the Shotgun Betty.
Hefeweizein Chili with the Shotgun Betty.

The second bowl featured the Hefeweizen beer. The wheat flavor of the beer seemed to enhance the spices. It also gave it a hint of crackers in the chili which surprised me but then after thinking about it shouldn’t have. The sample of the Shotgun Betty I sampled with it pared well with the chili and enhanced the flavors even more.

Brown Ale Chili made with the Bell's Best Brown Ale.
Brown Ale Chili made with the Bell’s Best Brown Ale.

The third bowl featured the Brown Ale in the chili. The brown ale flavor seemed to add a little sweetness to the chili but didn’t dampen the heat of the it. The beer itself tasted a little bitter at first. But after I sampled more chili and more beer the bitterness faded.

The blended chili with a sample of each of the beers, an IPA, a Wheat and Brown.
The blended chili with a sample of each of the beers, an IPA, a Wheat and Brown.

I decided to take one more sampling gambit and combined all three chilis into one bowl, then pared each of the beer samples with the combined chili. The blended chili actually tasted the best out of all the samples. As far as the parings went, the IPA tasted bitter, more so than before and did not go well with the blend. The cracker taste of the wheat chili was gone with the blend but the wheat still brought out the heat in the chili. And the brown brought out a sweet aftertaste with the chili.

This little experiment in chili was not only interesting but tasty. I was expecting the IPA to add a little bitterness, which it did, But when pared with itself for drinking it tasted just fine in the chili. I did not expect the cracker flavor from the wheat beer chili but I did think it would pare well with chili. The brown surprised me with the sweetness it brought to the chili as I never really thought of a brown ale as a sweet flavor.

And I was definitely surprised that the blended chili tasted better than any of three individual chilis. Though I liked all three I preferred the Wheat and the Brown. Not sure if I could pick one over the other as I liked them both and the ales brought out different aspects of the chili that I liked.

I will definitely be trying more experimentations with beer cooking down the road and will share the results with you.

Papabear