Cocoa Mole! Cerveza Para Cinco de Mayo!

The hubster brought home a surprise bomber the other night.  Something new, completely unique and amazingly good.  If you’re lucky enough to have access to New Belgium Brewing Company’s specialty beers, then bypass the Mexican beers this Cinco de Mayo and pick up a bottle of their Cocoa Mole.  Holy Mole, this beer is spiced just right with ancho, guajillo and chipotle peppers; cinnamon; and bittersweet cocoa.

If you’re not familiar with mole, it’s a heavy spiced Mexican sauce or rub that’s sweet, spicy, and full of delicious, fruity smoky lingering heat.  Imagine that in a beer and you’ve got Cocoa Mole -“Porter de Mexico”.  Introduced as part of New Belgium’s Lips of Faith series, this beer is not for weak taste buds.  The spices permeate the beer without overwhelming.  You can taste every ingredient, yet the combination is brilliant, and like the sauce, the chilies and leave a sweet fruity lingering heat that blends perfectly with the spicy cinnamon and bittersweet chocolate.

For those of you who like stats with your beer reviews, here we go…

  • Medium bodied
  • Dark
  • Full Flavored
  • 9% ABV
  • IBU’s?  Target hops are used, but IBUs aren’t even listed – the spices pretty much replace the hops in this one.
  • Spices – Ancho, guajillo, and chipotle peppers, cinnamon, cocoa

If you’re thinking you’d rather cook with it than drink it, then hey, you’re not alone.  I can easily imagine cooking this down to a thick syrupy demi glacé and spooning it over mounds of tender roasted chicken or pork (Remember the beautiful food in the movie “Like Water for Chocolate”?) .  Or scoop some vanilla ice cream, pour Cocoa Mole over and top with chocolate syrup for a delicious beer ice cream float.  Yum!  Don’t believe me?  Check out New Belgium’s website for some creative Cocoa Mole recipes.

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good authentic mexican cerveza on Cinco de Mayo.  And in the heat of summer, a cold (yes, I said cold) Corona can be just the ticket (and it happens to be one of the few beers that encourages fruit).  But for a true Cinco de Mayo flavored filled cerveza experience, you’ve got to try Cocoa Mole.  At less than $10 a bottle, not only will you get a memorable beer experience, but you’ll also have a gorgeous artsy bottle that will melt down into one heck of a nice cheese plate (check out New Life for Old Beer Bottles) !

Happy Cinco de Mayo Everyone!  Viva la Mexico and Cheers Beers!

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4 Ways to Show Your Plants Some Beer LOVE

There seems to be some serious debate over whether or not beer is good for plants.  Some say it’s a great fertilizer, others say not so much.  However, beer bottles can be very plant friendly!  So with Earth Day approaching, I wanted to share a few ideas for showing your plants some beer love without wasting good beer or killing our oxygen loving friends.

1.  Make a Beer Bottle Plant Watering Globe.   Ever seen those overpriced glass globes that you fill with water and put into the plants for extended drip watering?  Well guess what, beer bottles can serve the same purpose – no money spent, and you’ll be repurposing.

2.  Proven Slug Killer Got Slugs???  Place a small amount of beer in a jar and bury the neck of the jar to drown slugs. Make sure to empty and replace the liquid after a rain since it will be diluted.

3.  Make an Indoor Bottle Garden Great DIY project.  Bring some fresh air and greenery indoors and reuse those bottles!  Visit Design Sponge for a step by step tutorial for creating an indoor garden out of empty beer bottles! .

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Photo by Design Sponge

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4.  Build a Bottle Walkway or Raised Flower Bed

Bury your bottles, bottoms up in the dirt for a interesting border edge to your flower bed. …Or stack them sideways for a raised bed. 

Photos from Apartment Therapy and Pinterest

Have other beer and garden ideas?  Or more creative ways to reuse those beer remnants?   Leave a comment and share!

Happy EarthDay!  Cheers Beers!

The Victory-Garden BeerVenture

Cheers Beers has been nominated for the Beautiful Blogger Award!  Many thanks to Anne at Zen and Genki for her gracious acknowledgement.  As part of my acceptance, I shall follow a few simple rules…

Instructions for the Beautiful Blogger award:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award
2. Paste the award on your blog
3. Link the person who nominated you for the award
4. Nominate 7 bloggers or less
5. Post links to the 1-7 blogs you nominated

Ground rules aside, I’m happy to recognize several of my long time, personal award worthy favorites for this BEAUTIFUL award …

The Victory-Garden Tour

Feeling the need to post something beautiful, our Victory-Garden Tour should be just the ticket!  We visited Longwood Gardens a few weeks ago, on (as luck would have it) one of the most gorgeous spring days yet.   Longwood Gardens is located in PA, just over the Delaware line.  Of course, when we travel, there’s always beer involved.  It just so happens that Victory Brewing Company is located only 30 minutes away.  Yay!

Our first trip to Longwood Gardens, it was spectacular.  Fabulous for kids of all ages.  Tulips were at their season’s peak, and trees were flowering everywhere.  But the real show was inside the conservatory, where florals, fruit trees and greenery filled every room.  Every turn offered an entirely new experience – new colors, sounds, smells.  Not our last visit, I assure you.

The brew pub at Victory Brewing Company in Downingstown, PA never disappoints.   We followed our usual game plan and bellied up early in front of the growler fillers.  What can I say?  It’s stupid simple entertainment for us big kids.  And of course we had to get a sampler, because the list at Victory always  includes new and rare items that we may have the chance to try again.  Their tap list is long and includes something for everyone – stouts, IPAs and hoppy bevs, belgians, barley wine, german style lagers, wheat beers, and three cask beers.  One of my favorites, St. Boisterous (maibock) was bellowing my name.  I also love the Golden Monkey.

A stand out was the smoked lager.  Smoked beers, when done well, are amazing, and the sure sign of a masterful brewer.  In fact, that’s one thing you can expect from Victory.  Whether or not you like their beer, you can’t say it’s not well brewed.  They have rightfully earned their elevated position in the craft beer hierarchy.  We’re just glad they’re within driving distance.   In fact, we’re considering a year-round pass to Longwood Gardens to justify more trips northward.  I hear the garden fountain exhibit (opening June 9th) is spectacular!

Ah, and here my wordy tour ends with some actually beauty – a small sample of our Victory Garden Beerventure… Cheers beers!


Why Americans Celebrate St. Paddy

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I was chatting last week with a British co-worker who recently moved to Philadelphia from England.  He was amused that St Patrick’s Day parades were being held an entire week before the actual holiday. “I’m surprised that people here get so excited about a religious Irish holiday,” he laughed.

I suppose Americans have zapped the religion right out of St. Paddy’s Day.  In fact, I wonder how many celebrators (especially the non-Irish ones) even know who St. Patrick was and what he signifies?  He is a saint after all — the patron saint of Ireland.  He was born British, kidnapped and enslaved in Ireland at 16.  He heard voices (like Joan of Arc) telling him to high tail it out of there, so he escaped, found religion, returned to Ireland and introduced Christianity to its people; and he used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the trinity (father, son and holy ghost).  Somewhere in the mix he supposedly drove all the snakes out of Ireland – no idea where that part came from, but the Irish do enjoy their legends, and a saint should have some sort of super power, don’t you think?

It was the Irish Americans who gave the holiday its first parade…and so the party has spread around the world.  Leave it to Americans to turn a Roman Catholic holiday into a monster drink fest.  I confess, neither the hubster or I are Irish, but today we will wear green, drink green and eat Irish (corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot).  Why?  Because, it’s what we do on St. Patrick’s Day – no religion or irish descent required, and everyone is welcome.  So bottoms up, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Cheers Beers!

Stuffed Beer Cheesy Poofs

January 22, 2012 8 comments

The Brooklyn Brew Shop (my favorite site for beer and spent grain recipes) posted a recipe for Beer Cheese Puffs.  Well heck, since beer and cheese just happen to be my two favorite foods, I had to give this one a try.

These little gems are made with Pate A Choux – that’s french for cream puff dough, used also for eclairs and other evil light airy cream stuffed delights.   The Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Cheese Puffs are indeed super tasty, but being that these tender little pastry poofs were designed for stuffing, I couldn’t resist adding my own flavor spins and filling them with homemade beer cheese.  Each popper explodes with cheesy beer flavor.  Make them ahead of time, or freeze and reheat for the big game.    Twice baked, they’re even crispier and pouffier the second time around.

Stuffed Beer Cheesy Poofs

Ingredients

–  1 cup beer  (I used the hubster’s Indian Brown homebrew)

–  3 tbsp butter, cubed

–  1/4-1/2 tsp garlic salt

–  1 cup flour

–  4 eggs

–  1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

–  1/4 tsp regular or smoked paprika

– 1 tsp dried parsley

– 1-2 cloves crushed garlic

– 2-3 tbsp melted butter

Directions

1.   Line 2 small cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

3.  In a medium size saucepan, bring beer, butter and garlic salt to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

4.  As soon as the mixture boils, remove from heat and add flour.

5.  Stir the mixture very fast, smashing the dough against the sides of the pot to eliminate lumps.   The dough should not stick to fingers when pinched.

Tip:  If the dough is too moist, put back on low heat and stir just enough to allow moisture to evaporate and dough to dry out. 

6.  Off the heat, quickly incorporate one egg at a time.

7.  Continue stirring, using the the wooden spoon, until the dough comes back together (shown right).

8.  Fold in cheese, paprika and parsley.

9.  Drop spoonfuls onto the parchment lined cookie sheet.  Make them all as close to the same size as possible.

10.  Crush 1-2 cloves of garlic into 2-3 tbsp of melted butter and lightly brush the tops of the dough.

11.  Sprinkle the tops with paprika.

12.  Bake at 400 degrees until they have doubled in size, about  5-10 minutes.

IMPORTANT:  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR UNTIL THEY ARE DONE.

13.  When they have doubled in size, turn the oven down to 300 degrees.  Lowering the temperature will allow them to cook slower and dry out so they become light and crisp.  About 20-25 minutes, until they are nicely browned.

14.  Allow them to cool while you prepare the filling.

Beer Cheese Filling

Ingredients

–  4 oz. cream cheese, softened

–  3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

–  1 tsp worchestershire sauce

–  2 cloves crushed garlic

– 1/2 tsp salt

– 1 tsp tabasco sauce

– 1/2 cup stale beer (or boiled and cooled to remove carbonation)

Directions

1.  Combine all ingredients except beer in a mixing bowl.

2.  Gradually add beer while simultaneously whisking all ingredients together (this works best with an electric mixer).

3.  Continue beating the mixture until it becomes smoother, thicker, light and fluffy.  The smoother the better for stuffing the poofs.

4.  Using a ziploc baggy, cut the bottom corner off, large enough to insert a pastry tip through.

5. From inside the bag, put the pastry tip (with a star shaped end) through the corner hole so it sticks out through the outside corner of the bag.

6.  Add the filling inside the bag.  Twist the top closed, poke the tip into the bottom of a poof, and apply pressure from the top of the bag to fill the poof with cheese.

Tip: Make extra beer cheese for dipping chips or to spread on crackers.

Enjoy now and/or freeze for later!

To reheat frozen poofs, preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 10 -15 minutes, til golden and heated through.

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Variations

  • Try the Brooklyn Brew Shop’s gouda recipe, or try using smoked gouda, or swiss cheese.  For these, swap the worchestershire sauce for white wine vinegar, and eliminate the hot sauce.
  • Fold some finely chopped ham or bacon into the dough.
  • Try a mexican queso version, incorporating chilis or chipotle into the dough and using a spicy mexican queso filling.
  • Try different kinds of beer for this recipe.  Match your flavors – stronger beers with stronger cheeses, and milder beers with milder cheeses.

Bon Appetit and Cheers Beers!

Flying Dog Unleashes the Wildeman

January 20, 2012 2 comments

Great news for hophead fans of the Flying Dog Brewery!  They’re releasing their new Farmhouse IPA – The Wildeman – in Maryland, Virginia and DC.

I recently took a growler of the Wildeman Farmhouse IPA home, and let me tell ya, the hubster and I were in hoppy heaven. Mind you, I’m not a hophead, but I do love beers that have a good dose of hops balanced with mild malty sweetness. The Raging Bitch fits this profile, and so does the Wildeman. Its a golden hoppy beer with lots of flavor, the smooth drinkability of a farmhouse ale, and a really nice well balanced hoppy layer. Raging Bitch fans are gonna love it, and many of the brewery staff have already dubbed it their new favorite. Hey, I was there and heard it with my own ears!

The Flying Dog Brewery's Wildeman Cometh to MD, VA and DC

If you’re in the Frederick, Maryland area on Thursdays, come to Flying Dog for a tour and bring your growlers. They open the taps up for growler fills on Thursdays, and its a great time to get a sneak preview and stock up for the weekend on their scratch and pre-release brews, as well as their full time beer line up. Their Raging Bitch Belgian IPA, K9 Winter, Gonzo Porter, Gonzo Barrel-aged Porter (kick butt), and Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout are just a few of my personal favorites.  And just a tip – the Gonzo Imperial Porter and the Double Dog make a kick butt black and tan.  I can’t account for separation, but the flavor is unreal.  There are at least 10 or 12 taps to choose from so mix it up any way you like.

If you don’t already have a growler, you can buy one in their gift shop for $5. In fact, at $5 a growler, you might wanna stock up on those too.  They’re like shoes…you can never have too many.   Stick around for the tour, its a fun (and cheap) date night at $5 a pop – includes tokens for tastings and a commemorative Flying Dog glass.   I love our hometown brewery!

If you’re nowhere near the MD, VA, DC area but you still get Flying Dog, then be patient.  I predict the Wildeman will gain a very quick following and will eventually make an appearance in a liquor store near you.  But then again, life offers no guarantees.  Grab your buddies….it’s time for a road trip!

Cheers beers!

BeerVenture to DC’s Churchkey

January 17, 2012 1 comment

“Just put me in the car and I’ll go wherever you take me.”  That’s what I tell my husband when he starts planning a day trip to to somewhere.  He plans, I participate.  So on a gorgeous 60 degree day in January, we both jumped in the car and on the DC metro, then walked a good mile uptown to DC’s Churchkey .

The Churchkey features 555 beers from 30 countries, 55 are on draught.  Small pours and pints are available so you can test out a bunch without overloading.  We sampled local brews, including an exceptional IPA called the Corruption from DC Brau; as well as some farmhouse style collaboration beers from Stillwater, DOG Brewing, The Brewers Art, and Oliver out of Baltimore; Bear Republic’s tasty Heritage wee heavy scotch ale; and an unusual fruit beer from Japan (I couldn’t pronounce it, much less spell it).  In fact, we hardly scraped the surface of the beer menu which was categorized not by style but by flavor type – sour, smoked, fruit, hop, crisp, malt…

The Churchkey’s bar is dark and kinda urban-retro, located on the 2nd floor of an old building atop the four star Birch & Barley restaurant.  The executive chef for both the bar and the restaurant is a NYC CIA graduate, so the food is as fab as the beer.  We noshed on deep fried cheese stuffed pickled cherry peppers and crisp bricks of tender fried macaroni and cheese.  Piled up plates of golden tater tots were also a bar favorite.

The neighborhoods of DC have come a long way over the past decade.  The once smelly and not so warm and fuzzy areas have been converted into lovely neighborhoods lined with refurbished row homes populated by hip urbanites who are having an exceptionally positive influence on the local beer scene.  In fact, Beer Advocate recently ranked DC as one of the top five fastest growing beer cities in the US.  You’ll see why, as locals and visitors alike flock to window front tables overlooking the neighborhood streets.

Tack this one onto your next DC visit.  The Churchkey is a relaxing place to hang out and try some different beers, enjoy world class food, and explore the lovely residential side of our nation’s capital.  It’s also a brisk walk away from the local attractions….like the museums, the conference center…or the next beer bar.

Cheer beers!

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