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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.

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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!

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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!

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!

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!

Coolin’ Off with Frozen Beersicles

We found Sean Paxton’s (aka. The Homebrew Chef) Beersicles recipes just in time for the 4th of July.  Easy to make, these popsicles will be the king of conversation at your next homebrew gathering or cookout. They’re also a great way to feature your homebrew or other favorite beers.  Use the recipes below as a guide for creating your own variations. Just don’t let the little kiddies get hold of these – they’re for big kids only.

Beersicles (from the Homebrew Chef)

Start with a basic simple syrup…

Simple Syrup Ingredients:

4 cups water
2 cups organic sugar

Simple Syrup Directions:

To make the simple syrup, bring water to a boil and add sugar. Whisk to dissolve the sugar and boil for 3 minutes on high. Remove from the heat and chill. This can be made in advance and will hold in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. Also perfect for cocktails and other desserts.

Union Jack IPA Pop Ingredients:

12 ounces Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Union Jack IPA
2 ounces simple syrup, recipe below

Midasicle Ingredients:

12 ounces Dogfish Head Midas Touch
2 ounces simple syrup, substitute 1/2 cup of honey for 3/4 cup sugar

Bastard Pop Ingredients:

12 ounces Stone Brewing Co. Arrogant Bastard Ale
2 ounces simple syrup

Kriek Popsicle Ingredients:

12 ounces Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek
2 ounces simple syrup

Goose Island Bourbon County Stoutsicle Ingredients:

12 ounces Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce heavy whipping cream

Instructions

  • Choose your recipe and combine ingredients in a bowl with a whisk
  • Carefully pour (we used a funnel) the mixture into popsicle molds.  One recipe filled a set of 4 popsicle molds.
  • We used plastic molds, but you could probably use small plastic cups and wooden popsicle sticks, and put a small piece of plastic through the stick and over the top of the cup.
  • Freeze overnight.

We made ours with Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch and Stone’s Old Arrogant Bastard.  Reminds me of ice beer.  The flavors are somewhat condensed and the primary flavors of the beer are really accentuated.  The honey of course was prominent in the Midas Touch, and the hoppy bitterness stood out in the Old Arrogant Bastard.  The taste of the beer is retained, but sweetly enhanced with the simple syrup.  Just a fun, interesting way to experience your favorite beer, especially in the heat of summer.

You’ll find tons of great beer recipes on Sean Paxton’s website at www.thehomebrewchef.com.  He also hosts a show on The Brewing Network where he talks all about cooking with beer.  He shares some amazing homebrew and food recipes (afterall, he is a homebrewer AND a chef), as well as comprehensive insights to food and beer pairings.

Cheers beers!

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!

Homemade Homebrew (Beer) Ice Cream

Ice cream can be made with some of the most unlikely ingredients, and oddly enough it works – garlic ice cream, green chili ice cream, green tea ice cream, and beer ice cream.  That’s right, beer in ice cream – hands down one of the simplest, most surprisingly delicious desserts you’ll ever try.

Our first beer ice cream experience was at Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, PA.  Golden Monkey and Storm King Stout chocolate were the flavors I remember, and we practically planted our faces in the bowl to make sure none of it went to waste.  Of course, it helps to have connections with the local creamery – Victory just sends over the wort and magical ice cream is churned out exclusively for the brewpub.  It really doesn’t get much better…unless you make it at home with your own homebrew.

That’s right, you can make homebrew ice cream using just 4 simple ingredients and an inexpensive ice cream maker.  Even the kiddies can help make it and eat it too!  Before you know it, every kid in the neighborhood will be over for ice cream just so they tell their parents they had beer at your house.  Ok, that’s a little joke, but you’ll still be the talk of the neighborhood!

Here’s the recipe …

(Homebrew) Beer Ice Cream

(from Los Angeles Times, July 1, 2010)

Serves 2-4, and takes 20 minutes plus freezing time

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup homebrewed wort or finished beer
1 cup heavy cream

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they are pale and lemon colored. Bring the beer and the cream to a simmer in a heavy-bottom saucepan, then slowly pour over the sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over low heat, whisking frequently, until it thickens.

2. Pour through a strainer into a mixing bowl set over ice and whisk until cool. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.

Each of 4 servings: 384 calories; 4 grams protein; 30 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 27 grams fat; 15 grams saturated fat; 292 mg. cholesterol; 25 grams sugar; 34 mg. sodium.

Note:  Using wort vs finished beer is the homebrewer’s advantage for this recipe.  You still get the beer flavor without the hops and carbonation.

Voila!  That’s it.  The fun part is choosing the beer to use – less hoppy beers like belgians, stouts, or malty lagers taste best –  and maybe adding some extra ingredients.  Consider the flavors in the beer – chocolate, coffee, caramel, toffee, fruit – then match or compliment by adding chunks of chocolate, dried fruit, bits of toffee, fruit preserves, caramel or fudge toppings, chocolate syrup or nuts…whatever your inner homebrew chef conjures up.  Plain and simple is just as good, and you can always top it off later.  Just don’t forget to pair your bowl of ice cream with a matching glass of homebrew!

Cheers Beers!

(visit the recipes menu at http://www.cheersbeers.wordpress.com for more beer ice cream recipes)

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