Archive

Posts Tagged ‘craft’

Cheers Beers’ First Beer Dinner

What better time to experience our first ever beer dinner than during Frederick Beer Week at our favorite hometown brewpub – Barley and Hops.  The Barley and Hops Spring Beer Tasting and Dinner not only featured their stellar house brews, but the event and the menu were all organized by head brewer and culinary creator Larry Pomerantz.  Each item on the menu, shown below, was designed to pair with one of Larry’s exceptional beers.

If you find yourself in Frederick, Maryland, stop by Barley and Hops for a quality pint or two and a great menu!  http://www.barleyandhops.net.

This was Barley and Hops’ premiere beer dinner  – hopefully the first of many to come (we’ve heard rumors that various themed beer dinners may be held quarterly!).  They seated 20 or more of us at a long family style table.  When beer and food are involved, it doesn’t take long for new friendships to form. We were all chatting and laughing and oohing and ahhing over the meal items as Larry explained his thought process behind the pairings and sought our reactions to tastes and flavor combinations.

Dinner is Served

We were so absorbed in the dinner that we missed most of our photo moments. Take my word for it…the cheese course was delicious!

Celery Heart Salad with Bacon Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp served with Larry’s fabulous Sugerloaf Saison and a Saison Vinaigrette.

Stout ice cream…a great way to top off any meal!

1st Course

A cheese course consisting of local goat cheeses that included a soft tangy baby swiss paired with his flavorful sweet and malty Highway to Helles;  a tangy cheddar that brought out delicious notes in the Tuscarora Red Ale; a spicy tangy jalapeño cheddar paired with the Hoptopsy ESB; and a magnificent soft zesty gouda paired with the Annapolis Rocks Pale.

2nd Course

A unique celery heart salad served with bacon wrapped shrimp, topped with a zesty saison mustard dressing, and paired with the Sugarloaf Saison.  The Saison is amazing by itself, but this course brought out the tangy citrus flavors in the beer.

3rd Course

A fork tender Cocoa and Ancho Chili Crusted Pork Tenderloin paired with his 80 Schilling Scotch Ale.  Wow, lots of smoky and chocolate flavors from the beer.  I would never have thought of matching a Scotch Ale with southwest flavors, but boy did it work.

4th Course

Stout Ice Cream with chocolate sauce – I keep telling you all that beer ice cream rocks!  By the end of this course, 20 people practically had their faces planted in their bowls trying to salvage every last bit.

..

A Few Pairing Tips 

  • When pairing foods, match stronger flavored foods with stronger flavored beers….and visa versa.  Lighter foods with lighter flavored beers.
  • Hoppy beers pair well with hot and spicy foods.
  • Malty beers pair well with grilled and smoky foods

But the most important tip of all is slow down, stop guzzling, and pay more attention to how your beer and your food complement one another.  You might find that your meal is even more interesting and enjoyable.

Beer dinners are happening all over, so check out your local brewpubs and beer bars and find one near you.  They’re tasty, they’re fun, and you’ll learn how to get the most from two of life’s greatest pleasures – beer and food!

Bon Appetite and Cheers Beers!

Thoughts on Brewpubs and the Unspoken Rule

You wouldn’t ask for Folgers in a coffeehouse, you wouldn’t expect Five Guys to serve big macs, and you probably wouldn’t scoff at a wine bar that doesn’t serve Riunite (in fact, most people would react quite the opposite). So why are brewpubs expected to sell mass-produced commercial beers?  Not all brewpubs do sell these beers, but the expectation is still a sort of unspoken rule that pertains to beer serving establishments in general.

I suppose a lot of people equate brewpubs to beer bars.  But brewpubs are unique in that brewing beer is their specialty, their differentiator, the heart of their business.  So they should be exempt from that rule, right?  You’d think so, but it really is amazing how embedded certain brands are in our beer culture – and not just American.  I’ve seen people get downright angry if their beers aren’t available, even at brewpubs.

I’m not judging those who prefer the commercial brews.  We like what we like and we shouldn’t have to apologize for it.  And I’m definitely not judging brewpubs for selling those beers.  It’s a business, and brewpubs do have the option to sell or not to sell, and to charge just as much for those beers as for their in house brews, if not more.  I suppose that in itself should be lesson enough to the finicky beer-drinkers who eat at brewpubs but snub the house brews in favor of commercial beers (ok, that might sound a little judgmental).  It’s an easy way to make money and keep the customers happy.  The pressure is evident, and I know that in our semi-rural suburban region, it doesn’t matter how many house or craft brews are available, if a bar (any bar) doesn’t serve at least one of the major brands, then they’re gonna lose business.  Hey, if that’s what it takes to keep a good brewpub going strong for the rest of us, then give’em their beer.  However, I would think its gotta be a sticky pet peeve for most brewers.  Just my opinion.

Responding to the Inevitable Request

Of course it never hurts to ask, fair enough.  I’ve witnessed several ways that brewpubs handle the request for commercial brands…

  1. Sure thing, whatever you want, no questions asked.  The larger chain-type brewpubs often serve commercial brews in addition to their own – no muss, no fuss, no questions asked, the customer gets what they want.
  2. You can have it on one condition.  Give ours a little taste first, and if you don’t like it, then we’ll give you your commercial beer.  This approach encourages non-craft beer drinkers to acknowledge that they are in fact in a brewpub.  And out of sheer respect to the brewer and the establishment, at least give the lightest house brew on tap a fair shot.  Hey, like it or not, its free beer!
  3. We only serve house beers, but our XYZ beer is the closest match to your request.  This “take it or leave it” approach is a sure sign of an independent, confident brewpub whose regulars appreciate the good stuff and come back for it often, and whose head brewer (I’m assuming) probably takes immense pleasure in giving the big three a big bird.


Respect the Brewer, Respect the  Beer

I am not a beer snob – truly, I don’t know enough, nor am I serious enough to be a snob.  But I have tremendous respect for brewers and the passion and commitment they have for their craft.  And virtually every brewpub I’ve ever been in produces one or more lighter beers that speak to a wider audience.  You say you like beer?  Then branch out a little.  Ask for some samples.  Give the house beers a fair shot.  You might even find a new regular, in which case, good for you!  Welcome to the brave new world of craft beer.

Cheers beers!




10 Best Craft Beer Vacation Destinations

Breweries are located in some of the most beautiful areas of the country, so why not plan a vacation around craft beer?  Or at least include some beer destinations in your itinerary.  Here’s a link to an article just released in Milwaukee, WI ranking The 10 Best Craft Beer Destinations.  You might find that some aren’t terribly far from your front door.  Day trip!

Cheers beers!

7 Tips to Get Fit and Drink Beer Too

This post is for all of my fellow beer lovers who are trying to attain or retain slim summer swimsuit figures.  I’ve just recently jumped back on the fitness bandwagon myself.  Vacation is over, the weather is warm, the pool is open, and there are lots of outdoor activities to be conquered.  It’s the perfect time to kick the metabolism into high gear.  In fact, to ensure my dedication this time around, I took the plunge and signed up for my first half marathon; but with four months of training ahead, one of my biggest concerns is how do I fit beer into my running program?

Inspiration from the Beer Runner

You may have heard of the BeerRunner?  He’s vowed to run and drink a beer every single day for an entire year.  During this challenge, he’s posted tons of articles and blogs that favor beer and running.  Afterall, it’s not the beer, it’s the lack of activity that’s the problem…right?  Minus the fact that beer is empty calories, it dehydrates, slows metabolism, and causes hangovers.

Aside from that, I suppose beer isn’t really a requirement for me, but it’s certainly a temptation in my house, and not one that’s going away anytime soon.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the outcome wouldn’t be in my favor if it ever came down an ultimatum.  The point is, to be successful it’s important to plan how to handle temptations – as opposed to giving up the temptations altogether.

7 Tips for Beer and Fitness 

So here are a few rules and tips that I follow…

  1. Reward Yourself with Beer.  If (and only if) you workout hard, reward yourself with a beer.  A hard earned beer will taste that much sweeter when earned.
  2. Drink from a Small Glass.  Similar to the small plate = smaller portions tactic, I often drink from small 4 and 6 oz glasses.  Sometimes just a small drink is enough to satisfy the craving.
  3. Split a Beer with Your Training Bud.  Great way to reduce intake and still enjoy some social time.
  4. Add Fruit to Your Beer.  Maybe I’m weird, but I think summer beers are great with fruit added (as discussed in Tis the Season for WaterWeizen).  A full glass with half fruit and half beer reduces intake, provides bulk, and makes it feel as though you’ve consumed more than you have.
  5. Choose Lighter Beers.  No, not “light” beer, unless that’s your preference.  Many craft breweries produce beers that are lower in alcohol and calories, and big on flavor (e.g. 21st Amendment, Stone, DogFish Head, Brooklyn Brewery, and others).  That certainly makes it easier to go lighter.
  6. Drink Lots of Water.  Alcohol is dehydrating, so drink water before, during and after to prevent headaches, hangovers, fluid retention, and other potential excuses for not working out the next day.
  7. Make Training the Priority.  If you know there’s a chance you’ll overindulge, then beforehand, make a promise to yourself that come hell or high watermelon wheat, you WILL get up and workout the next morning.

Need Incentive?  

Take the Beer Runner Challenge.  Start by making a commitment to run at least 1 mile per day for 5 consecutive days.   If 30 people to commit to this challenge, then the Beer Runner will run a beer mile (not as fun as it sounds – look it up).

Pick a race and sign up!  Preferably a race that involves beer – many are supported by local breweries and open taps will await you at the finish line.

Or just find some friends and challenge each other.  The Daily Mile is a great social site that lets you and your friends log every aspect of your training, and track and comment on each other’s progress and statuses.   Hey, everything is social nowadays.  In fact, look me up (SimplP), I need all the motivation I can get!

There’s no time like the present to start getting in shape, and the best part is, you won’t have to give up beer!  With that said, I ran two miles this morning and I haven’t had my beer yet!

Cheers Beers and Happy Running!

Jolly Good Beer at the Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery

Our final beer destination on this year’s State Capitols and BeerVentureJolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Jolly Pumpkin always seems like our beer of choice on a beautiful relaxing evening outside by the fire pit or on the front swing. We’re seeing it more and more in the mid-Atlantic region, but its still rather hard to find, so this visit was a much anticipated venture for us.

The pub is a spacious two story building, with full bars on both levels, and an upstairs rooftop patio. I love the dim, relaxed, artsy fartsy atmosphere, and the walls are filled with artwork adapted from their artisan beer labels.

As for the beer, the actual brewery, located in Dexter, Michigan, is well known for their openly fermented, oak barrel-aged, bottle conditioned artisan beers. I tried their Raspinical, which is an Abbey del Norte brewed with spinach. This experimental beer is only produced in small batches for their brew pub. Raspinical has medium body, and a dark, sweet, malty belgian character. Excellent brew for those who enjoy darker belgian-style ales.

I also enjoyed their Bam Noire, a dark farmhouse ale – one of Jolly Pumpkin’s better known beers and one of my personal favorites. Their description tells it best:

Bam Noire– Dark Farmhouse Ale
Dark, smooth, delicious. Aromas of worn leather and cool
autumn nights. Notes of sweet plum and toasted raisin, hints of
coffee and cacao. Lingering tart and refreshing finish.
Only available for a few short months. Not to be missed.

Seasonal released in September
4.3% Alc./Vol.

750ml bottles – 12 case

The pub also offers a full line of non-sour beers brewed at their “sister” brewery, North Peak in Traverse City, MI. North Peak‘s beers include the Diabolical IPA and the Siren Amber Ale, Majestic Wheat Ale and Vicious Wheat IPA, as well as a number of seasonals. The Diabolical IPA is fully aromatic and flavorful with floral and citrus hops, but distinct pine notes and a dry earthiness give it a really unique taste that sets it apart from other IPAs.

Their rustic food is prepared fresh and designed specifically for pairing with their rustic beers – warm flatbreads, marinated olives, cured meats and cheeses, pizzas, truffled fries with rosemary, and artisan sandwiches. Don’t let the upscale interior fool you – Jolly Pumpkin is relaxed, casual, easy, warm, and inviting, much like its Ann Arbor surroundings. The pub is surrounded by streets full of great shops and artsy attractions – glass galleries, speciality food stores, clothing, and more – so be sure to set time aside to walk around the downtown area. It’s a perfect location for this artisan brewpub, as Jolly Pumpkin clearly demonstrates that brewing original rustic craft beers is indeed an art.

Cheers beers!

Bell’s Brewing Company – Best Darn Brew in Kalamazoo

The only bad thing about Bell’s beer is that we have to drive to Virginia to get it.  One of our all-time favorite craft breweries, no way we were passing up the chance to stop in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Since the brewery isn’t open for tours, we settled for the next best option – dinner at Bell’s Eccentric Cafe.

Bell’s Cafe is located in a rustic wood building with stained glass windows, and high ceilings lined with wood beams. A beer drinker’s sanctuary of sorts. The chalkboard tap list is surrounded by tribal masks, one of which resembles a Dr. Seuss character. There’s a casual quirkiness about the place, and an old fashioned vibe.  Fresh roasted nuts are served in paper boats, they offer a long list of old fashioned soft drinks, and the menu includes interesting updates to some old classics. The prices are reasonable, and the beers are sold in 12 oz, 16 oz, and 20 oz glasses.  If you read my SimplPlea for Half Pints blog, then you’ll know what a fan I am of smaller sizes!

My first beer was a limited release, draught only brown sour ale called The Wild One. Hands down one of my favorite beers ever. A tart, sweet, fruity beer aged in oak barrels and brimming with funky sour flavor from the wild yeast.  I also had the Oarsman, a golden wheat sour mash that was a light, crisp, fruity mild session beer, similar to a farmhouse ale with only a very mild sourness.

They also had a number of IPAs on tap, including the Oracle Double IPA (DIPA) Ale, a delicious strong, citrusy, malty, hoppy brew that clocks in at 10% ABV.  If you’re lucky, you might find this one in bottle form.

But no visit is complete without heading next door to their general store.  Lots of great Bell’s takeaways, including homebrew supplies.  Another fun brewpub – they rarely disappoint – and it was truly a great beer experience as the restaurant features quite a few small batch, draught only beers that you won’t find anywhere else.  So the next time you’re up Michigan way, head to Kalamazoo for some darn good brew by Bell’s Brewing Company.

Cheers Beers!

%d bloggers like this: