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….

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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

Dr. G and the Bear Save the World!! (…of Beer University)

 

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Perhaps I should start by explaining the title a bit. World of Beer is a franchise business featuring craft beers and tavern food. It started in Tampa Florida about 9 years ago and has grown since to well over 50 locations throughout the US (though most of them are in the southeast in general and Florida especially). In Gainesville we now have two. The first was opened west of Gainesville, about half way between it and the city of Newberry, in the Tioga Town Center, about 3 or 4 years ago. It is a nice establishment with a great selection of beers.

But for me it has two major limitations:

  1. It doesn’t serve food. But then that is not unusual with a lot of tap rooms in Gainesville. In fact World of Beer at Tioga does what a lot of Tap Rooms do and lets customers order food to be delivered from local businesses. So that alone would not keep me from going there.
  2. It is pretty freakin’ far out for me to drive there! On a good traffic day it takes me at least 45 minutes to get there from where I live in Gainesville, but it can be an hour or longer. With all of the other choices available to me in town going there isn’t really practical unless I happen to be in the area, which doesn’t happen often. Also I could just as easily add a half hour to travel time and visit a brewery in Jacksonville, or an hour and visit one in Tampa or Orlando.

Given these limitations, I have only been to WoB in Tioga twice. I enjoyed myself both times but the drive back was too long. The only other time I go out to Tioga is when the Annual Hogtown Beerfest is being held. And I don’t need to stop in there then.

So when I heard a few months back that WoB was opening a location in town (a location previously occupied by Hooters), I was looking forward to the opening. And I have to say I was not disappointed.

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We started the weekend a bit early on Thursday evening because the Blarneyman and the Cheerleader were visiting in town. So Thursday evening they, the Maestro, the Chemist, the Deck-orater and myself met up at Market Street for some Karaoke with Mr. October.

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Friday after I got off of work, we all met up at Gainesville House of Beer for happy hour and I brought Tucker along so the Blarneyman could finally meet him. Both of those meetings (or as the Blarneyman calls it… Networking) went well and we enjoyed the company the craft beers and the philosphying, and I finished my 7th RailCard at HoB.

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Saturday afternoon, I was recovering from a miserable morning of trying to do outside chores and failing miserably all morning due to various circumstances. It seemed the universe didn’t want me to get any work around the house accomplished so I took that as a sign that I needed to go console myself with some fine ales. I started thinking about going to the new WoB as it had just opened earlier in the week. Now long after that thought entered my head, I got a text from the Doctor saying he was getting ready to head into town for beers and suggested WoB. Again the Universe was talking to me. Who was I to argue?

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I eventually made my way there and found that, like the Hooters that was there before, the front entrance was kind of understated. But the entrance is only a small corner of the establishment, once you get inside then the atmosphere and the room opens up. Very nice furnishings and décor appropriate to the business and plenty of room inside and out on the patio. They even have a room that can be closed off for a private party.

I was greeted by a few staff members at the door who quickly offered to find me a seat, and then I saw the Doctor had arrived before me and said I was meeting friends who were here. The Maestro and the Blarneyman were also here and had put in a beer order already, while the Doctor was enjoying his.

The waitress came over, a young lady by the name of Ashley, who I introduced myself to and ordered my first beer of the day, a kolsch style from Coastal Empire Beer co., called Tybee Island Blonde. It has that nice kolsch flavor with a smooth finish.

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It was early enough in the afternoon that Ashley was not overwhelmed with customers and she took the time to chat with us a bit. She also works at another establishment in town that sells craft beers which I have mentioned before. And she enjoys beer so we lucked out getting a waitress who not only has experience with our kind of customer but also knows the products well enough to recommend some of them to us.

While Ashley was not overwhelmed she did have other customers, so while she took care of their needs the four of us began doing what we do best, philosophying and supping suds. I found out that the Maestro and the Blarneyman would only be with us a short time that afternoon as they had a Gala to attend with their good ladies that evening… something at the Thomas Center that sounded like, as the Blarneyman would say, a very posh affair.

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So we had another round of beers, this time I ordered a Hofbrau Maibock, which had a light caramel flavor with a smooth finish. And we resumed our philosophying. Then Ashley came back by and somehow the conversation got around to whether or not dogs were allowed in. Ashley told us that they were welcome on the patio and the Doctor showed her pics of Rowdy’s dog Harley, whom he frequently dog sits and takes to different establishments when she and the Cooler are away. Not to be outdone I produced pics of Tucker and got the “Oooh how cute!” remark for his pics. The Doctor told me to tell her about the hit squirrel and I proceeded to tell her the story about the cannibal hit squirrel that the other neighborhood squirrels had brought in to get Tucker (a tale for another blog).

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After that round of beers was finished the Maestro and the Blarneyman headed out to change into their penguins suits and take their ladies to the gala, which left the Doctor and I to decide what we would do for a meal. Since we were already there and they actually served food at this establishment, we decided to sample some of the fare. We both ordered another beer while we looked over the menu, and this time I saw that they had a Weihanstephaner that I had not had before, so I ordered the 1516 which is a kellerbier (a type of German beer which is typically not clarified or pasteurized) which has a little cloudiness to the appearance due to a higher remainder of yeast in the beer. No matter how it is defined, like all of the Weihanstephaners, it is certainly delicious.

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When she came back with the next round for myself and the Doctor, we put in our food orders. The doctor ordered a salad, a Spring Greens & Kale Salad, which looked good and he certainly seemed to enjoy it, along with a side of house fries. The Kale would hinder my enjoyment but the dressing was a vinaigrette made with a Framboise, which I would probably enjoy very much.

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I ordered the Guinness Bratwurst, which is a bratwurst infused with Guinness, served with sauerkraut, sautéed onions & peppers on a hoagie roll, and I ordered a side of tator tots. Not the menu recommended pairing the dish with a stout, but they didn’t have a stout on draft that I hadn’t tried before so I looked of the bottle menu and saw they had a Strong Ale that I hadn’t tried yet. So I ordered it instead. And the Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard Ale went perfectly with this dish, and was an excellent beer on its own as well.

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After we had finished eating and were slowly enjoying our last beers, Ashley and another young lady walked over with a bell and a couple of T-shirts. The other young woman rang the bell loudly and Ashley called out, “Attention Everyone! I would like to announce that Dr. G and the Bear are now official members of our Loyalty Club!” with drew a little bit of applause from the other patrons. Then she handed us our tees and our respective membership cards.

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Our waitress Ashley.
Our waitress Ashley.

Ok. This was not how we saved the World (…of Beer University). After the Maestro and the Blarneyman had left, but before we ordered our food both the Doctor and I started talking to one of the managers about what a great waitress Ashley was. We like to do that whenever we are at an establishment that has an employee that is good at their job. One reason is that when you come across an employee at an establishment you like you want to make sure they are around the next time you come you need to let the people in charge know their value. Another reason is we hope that gets back to the person we were talking about from their supervisor and helps make their day better.

But that wasn’t how we saved the World either. The Doctor mentioned that we were unable to check into Untappd on our phones. And the manager we were talking to hadn’t heard of untapped before. So we explained how the app works, how you can keep track of beers and rate them and find them when they are being served locally or how you can use the app to find a place locally as well.

Right before we were walking out the door to leave, he came up to us and thanked us for him letting him know about it, and that he had put the WoB University into their database so that it could be used as a location now. So for all of you beer geeks out there who use untapped and want to find WoB University or want to check in while you’re there… You’re welcome!

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Okay… “Saved” may be a strong word for what we did. But everybody makes their own contributions when it comes to saving the world. You do it your way and we’ll do it ours!

… One beer at a time.

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!”

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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

Beer Festival Season has officially begun!!

 

Beer Festival Season

It’s that time of year again. It’s Spring and the flowers are blooming, the weather is warmer and festivals are popping up all over the place. There are festivals featuring locally grown produce, like the Blueberry festival a few weeks ago. There are festivals for charities and movements, like the Tree Fest, an annual event to be hosted at the Swamp Head brewery around Earth Day and Arbor Day each year, being held later today. And then there are the Beer Fests, which is what this blog, and this writer are more concerned with.

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It truth, in Florida, there are Beer festivals pretty much year round because of the mild weather we enjoy. But for me it starts anew every year with Florida Craft Beer Week which also coincides with the Annual Hogtown Craft Beer Festival here in Gainesville. This year the festival was held on April 16th, again at the Town of Tioga Shopping Center west of Gainesville.

Last year when I attended, the main complaint I had was the line to get in was long and took forever to move through the entrance. This year, while the line wasn’t any shorter (in fact the attendance this year was much larger), the speed that they processed everyone to get in was much faster. Last year took me an hour to get in, this year it was maybe 15 minutes.

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With over 110 different breweries and 300 hundred different beers, meads and ciders to choose from there was something to please everyone. I really liked the layout of the different pods for the breweries. They grouped them together by region or type of brewer. For instance, all of the old world breweries were in Pod 1. Pod 2 had all of the breweries that specialized in Meads or Ciders and the home brewers who were displaying their skills. And Pod 3 had the local breweries, pubs and craft beer vendors. Pods 4-9 had the rest of the Florida breweries by Region (Panhandle, East Coast, Space Coast, Jacksonville, Tamps-St. Pete, and the Glades). And Pod 10 had the out of State Breweries that attended.

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I believe I sampled over 30 different beers/meads/ciders/hard sodas and decided I had had enough. There were many great examples of many different styles of beer, but if there was one I would want to single out it would be one by a newcomer.

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Blackadder Brewing is a new brew pub coming to Gainesville which will feature 40 taps of different beers including some from their microbrewery. I had their Giggling Imbecile which is a Belgian Tripel. And in my honest opinion it is the best Belgian Tripel I can ever remember having! I can see why they won an award for it. Check out their website below:

http://www.blackadderbrewing.com/

Blackadder brewing's Giggling Imbecile
Blackadder Brewing’s Giggling Imbecile

The only thing I didn’t like is the same thing I don’t like about a lot of beer festivals is that the food vendor’s are all located in one spot. If it were up to me there would be some strategically located throughout the festival so folks wouldn’t have to walk from one end to the other to get food.

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Backstreet Blues and Chophouse had a food truck there and since I hadn’t sampled their wares before I decided to try their Pancetta Bites and fries. The fries came out with seasoning and a melted cheese mixture covering them and were delicious. I had to wait a bit for the Pancetta bites. They were good but not great. It may have been the texture but they didn’t really do it for me.

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I was glad to see Sweetberries was there with their frozen custard again. I got a treat as this time they served me a float using their fresh made vanilla custard with a hard ginger ale from one of the beer vendors. The combination was awesome! They also have a website you need to visit.

http://www.sweetberries.com/

I believe I said last year that if you didn’t make it to the fest you really missed out on some beers and food treats. I see no reason to alter that statement this year. Except to add… “SHAME ON YOU FOR NOT GOING AFTER I TOLD YOU HOW GREAT IT WAS!”

Now… if you’ll excuse, I’m going to the Tree Fest to help plant trees by drinking craft beer. Enjoy your weekend!

Papabear

The Art of Beer Pt 5 – Brewing (Home, Craft and Production)

December 5th, 1933, the date the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was enacted, which repealed the 18th Amendment, (also known as Prohibition); and October 14, 1978, when then President Jimmy Carter signed H.R 1337 into law, which eventually led to the newest advent of Home Brewing in the US; both of these dates are probably the most important dates in the 20th Century in relation to beer.

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The truth of the matter is that beer and brewing have been around much longer than any known laws (beer was developed as far back as 7000 years ago and the earliest recorded laws date back less than 5000 years.) Samples of beers, meads and wines can be found from many ancient cultures from many different parts of the world. To say that the Prohibition Act was not only one of worst ideas ever would be an understatement. It not only forced hundreds of thousands to become law breakers but it was one of biggest reasons for the rise of organized crime. And up until that point in American history brewing your own beer at home was not only an everyday occurrence it was a large portion of the source of beer consumed at that time. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s that production beer brewing started really growing.

So I am going to describe and compare the three main types of beer brewing, where they have similarities and differences and the pros and cons of each type. I have broken them down by the main factor of what currently defines them and that is by amount of beer brewed.

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Home Brewing is exactly what it sounds like, beer being brewed at home. Before America existed as a nation and for about 150 years after it was born, home brewing was the original method of brewing. And because it was done in the kitchen it was considered cooking, so most brewers in those days were women, not men. But then looking back through the history of many ancient cultures, brewing has always been primarily associated with women.

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In fact most of the ancient deities associated with beer brewing were goddesses:

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Siduri – Babylonian goddess of wine and beer

Siris – Mesopotamian goddess of beer

Ninkasi – Sumerian goddess of beer

Hathor – Egyptian goddess of brewing and enjoyment

Nepththys – Egyptian goddess of beer

Tenenet – Egyptian goddess of childbirth and beer

Dea Letis – Celtic goddess of waiter and beer

Nokhubulwane – Zulu goddess of rainbow, agriculture, rain and beer

These goddesses were also associated with agriculture, bread, water or childbirth depending on the culture, which means that the ancient world closely associated beer with life and good living.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us!”

Today many people are getting back into home brewing as a hobby, including yours truly. Brewing beer at home means that batch sizes range anywhere from a gallon to 10 gallons being brewed at a time. And the 10 gallon size batch can be very difficult for some folks because now you’re having to handle liquids in containers weighing at least 100 pounds. Once you get out of the 10 gallon range then you need to invest in more commercial like equipment and you’re really stepping into the Craft Brewing category.

If you enjoy cooking then Home Brewing may be an option for you to try. You need the same discipline that cooking requires; measuring ingredients, prepping both your kitchen and your equipment, and a good sense of timing for when the product is ready’ and the patience to wait for the product to be ready for consuming. If you don’t have those skills then you may be better off finding a friend who does and drink their homebrew instead.

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While Home Brewing has been around for centuries, Craft brewing is a much more recent phenomenon and is really the next stage of evolution in the beer making industry after you graduate from being a hobbyist. A Craft Brewery is a business where much more experimentation is done on different varieties of beers, the goal being not to only create a good tasting product but to also create something unique using traditional ingredients and methods, something that the larger Production Breweries can’t or won’t do.

While most Craft Brewers started out as Home Brewers, they have now graduated from a hobbyist to an entrepreneur and need to keep in mind that they are running a business. They have to run a good business model and still maintain the higher quality of product than the large Production Breweries have. But if they do run the business well, they can often experiment more with varying styles of beer and ingredients.

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Production brewing exploded after the start of the industrial revolution. With the invention of new machines that could do the work of many men the production of beer became much cheaper. Before Prohibition there were over 4000 breweries in America. During prohinition that number became zero. And only a handful of those breweries were able to survive Prohibition by changing their products produced to something legal, like near beer, malts, syrups, or other non-alcoholic related products. After prohibition ended, those that survived started up brewing again but with a much more homogenized version of beer due to new laws governing beer. And in order for these breweries to start making profits quickly, they changed a lot of their ingredients from the traditional barley and malt, to a much cheaper ingredient list that now also included corn and rice starches.

Another reason for the rise of these mass-production beer companies was due to the abject consumerism of the 1950s, ‘60s. ‘70s, ‘80s & ‘90s in the United States. The rise of radio and then television brought commercialism to new highs. Marketing alone sold the American public on the need for a particular kind of beer. Miller “High Life” used the ideal of living the high life to appeal to its customers. Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer subliminally associated the blue ribbon with being a prize winning beer, where in reality the name came from the original packaging of the beer which had a silk blue ribbon tied around the neck of the bottle. The Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull, Coors Silver Bullet, and Miller Lite “tastes great vs less filling” commercials all used various forms of comedy and flashy props to sell their products.

Which brings us to the “King” of commercialism, Anheuser-Busch. Adolphus Busch and Carl Conrad developed their lager style after a Bohemian Beer from the town of Budweis in Bohemia. The beer they copied was founded by the then King Ottokar II. So they used a “Beer of Kings” and named it after the town and called it the “King of Beers”, a marketing scheme that has lasted for over 100 years. Then of course there are the other marketing ploys, like the Budweiser Clydesdales and the sponsorship of sports, which all of the big beer companies have participated in.

The production beer makers are all about the business. It is much more profitable to make an inferior beer, mass produce it and sell it to the masses with marketing schemes than it is to make a good product. And that is what big business has become in the world today.

Thank goodness for Home and Craft Brewing’s rise in the 80s. Without them, a lot of Americans would never have learned what good beer is actually supposed to taste like.

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Papabear

Craft Beer Lover’s Are More Socially Conscious

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Tucker with Rowdy at the Pints for Puppies event at Gainesville House of Beer

First let me clarify the title of this article by stating that I have no empirical data or documented evidence to support that claim. It is merely an opinion, and being that I am a craft beer lover it is a biased opinion at that.

But what I have been observing first hand over the last few years is that the interaction between Craft Beer Breweries, tap rooms or beer houses, and their patrons is much more community oriented that my recollections of the interactions with the Macro Beer Breweries and their related distributors.

My experiences of interactions with Macro breweries or the representatives has been basically like one of their beer commercials.  Sporting events, or athletic related events, BBQ or Chili cook-offs, NASCAR, and of the course female swimwear contests seem to be the focus of their community interaction.

Don’t misunderstand me, I know that at least one of them has done things like donating canned water to disaster areas and I’m sure that there are some really good folks who work for them.  But it seems that for the most part their focus with customers is generally whatever increases the profits for the company and their stockholders. But then that really shouldn’t surprise me. As demonstrated by the numerous craft brewery acquisitions and the impending merger between ABInBev and SAB Miller the bottom line appears to be their final deciding factor.

But the focus of Craft Breweries and Craft Beer Tap Rooms when dealing with events around their communities is much different. Now every business wants to make a profit. Let’s face it without profits it won’t be long before these businesses no longer exists. But there comes a point where profits need to give way to the needs of the community that these businesses live in and rely on. And in this aspect most Craft Beer businesses (whether breweries or tap rooms) excel far above their Macro Beer counterparts.

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A perfect example was my most recent visit to Gainesville House of Beer. They hosted an event called Pints for Puppies. The idea was to raise funds for a new dog rescue Loving Hands Rescue. The idea being that $1 of each pint you purchased would be donated to this group. They also had beer specials and were accepting donations in cash or the form of supplies that the rescue could use for the puppies.

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The Brass Tap on Archer road recently hosted a fund raising event for Operation Cat Nip, which is a program to help spay or neuter feral cats to help keep the population from growing. They also have teacher appreciation night every Friday offering discounted drafts to local teachers.

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All of our local breweries, Swamp Head Brewing, First Magnitude Brewing and Alligator Brewing (located inside Tall Paul’s Brew House) are often involved in fund raising for various purposes. Ranging from environmental causes, charity events, political fund raising and even hosting yoga.

And the crowds that turn out for these events are inspiring. Even folks who may not normally patronize a craft beer business turn out for them because it helps the community. And there are other businesses in town that do similar fund raising events involving craft beer. Forgive me for not naming them all here. But you may have read about them in my other blog entries.

And while Gainesville is generally considered a liberal leaning college town where you might expect this kind of activity, from what I can tell of happenings in other towns with Craft Beer related businesses, this is not a liberals only activity. You see it happening all over the US wherever craft beers businesses have been popping up.

All I can say it I find it very inspiring and gratifying to part of a community (I refer to the Craft Beer community – not just Gainesville) that is so giving and concerned for the people, animals and environment around them.

Cheers to you all (that’s from Tucker too) and keep up the great work!!

Tucker likes good craft beer too. Don't worry I know hops are bad for dogs. This is a Hefeweizen and he only likced the mpty glass.
Tucker likes good craft beer too. Don’t worry I know hops are bad for dogs. This is a Hefeweizen and he only licked the empty glass.

Papabear