Sunday, November 10, 2019

Craft Beer Concoctions Test Kitchen: Cachaca

To start, you might be asking, "What's Cachaca?" A few weeks ago we wouldn't have known the answer and one of us would have had to consult Google to find out. Now we know that it is the oldest distilled spirit in South America and made from sugar cane. Sugar cane was cultivated on the continent's coast for the purpose of being harvested and shipped to Portugal back in the day. The plant's inclination to grow like a weed also meant it was a ready raw ingredient to ferment.

How we came to be interested in it was by meeting local Cachaca distributor Bob Nathanson of 3G Spirits. A cousin-of-sorts to rum from the standpoint that rum can be made from sugar cane (although most is distilled from molasses), Cachaca's flavor profile is wide-ranging. For the purposes of the our Test Kitchen we utilized four varieties of the spirit. Three came from Famosinha (via 3G Spirits), two of which were cask aged, and one from Avua. To become more familiar with their flavor profiles before we started the mixology, we sampled each on its own, an experience that was a further education of our palates.

In general we have found that our most successful craft beer cocktails have skewed fruity (but not overly sweet) and summery. This spirit from South America seemed well suited to our crafting and the following are three of our best creations.

I Love You Like a Mango
- Avua Silver Cachaca
- Founders Mas Agave
- Mango juice
- Lime marmalade syrup
- Fresh lime wedge & lemon wheel for garnish

We counted ourselves lucky to find a bottle of Founders Mas Agave on the shelves of Hollywood Beverage as this is both a delicious beer and one that we found to work well in many, many cocktails. Here it is complimented by delicate sweetness from the mango juice and lime marmalade syrup and boosted by the Cachaca.

White Oak Holiday 
- Oak-aged Famoshinha Cachaca
- The Bruery Orxata
- Walnut bitters
- The Barreled Bee honey
- Cinnamon
- Orange peel garnish

This lightly sweet cocktail uses a horchata-inspired beer from The Brewery and one of the two cask-aged Cachacas. By some mixology magic the ingredients combined to become an adults-only orange creamsicle.

Jalapeno Invader
- Famoshinha Cherry Cask Cachaca
- Great Notion Pineapple Juice Invader IPA
- Spicy pineapple syrup
- Tajin dusted pineapple slice
- Candied jalapeno slice

Using the spicy-sweet pairing of pineapple and jalapeno as the basis for this beer cocktail, the Cachaca added a slightly woody backbone and complimentary flavor to the other ingredients. For those that haven't used tajin, it is a chili/lime seasoning from Mexico that has vast applications, including use on fruit, vegetables, cocktail glass rims, etc.

Huge thanks to Bob and wife, Sarah for joining us at this Test Kitchen. They are a wealth of knowledge about Cachaca and generous sharers of the product. Also thanks to our small, but faithful group of Test Kitchen guinea pigs that continue to join us on our adventure. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Jam Session - Craft Beer Concoction's Latest Test Kitchen

Have you ever read a recipe or had a craving for a cocktail that involves muddling summer fresh berries in the dead of winter? Even though you know you can probably find the correct ingredients in the produce or freezer section of your local grocery store you also know it won't be the same. So you tuck that recipe away until those luscious, local berries return.

That was the train of thought behind our idea to use jams and jellies in place of fresh fruit in the latest Craft Beer Concoctions Test Kitchen. A stunning variety of jams/jellies are commercially available but we managed to limit ourselves to a handful and supplemented those by whipping up a few in our own kitchen. Here are a few of our favorite concoctions using jam.

"I'd Pay For That"
We admit that not all the cocktails we create are great so when one of our tasting panel sipped this one, we had to name it after the words that came out of his mouth, "I'd pay for that!" A fairly simple combination of five ingredients, we'll be making plenty of these in the future.
Bak's Bison Grass Vodka
Great Notion Pineapple Juice Invader (hazy IPA with Galaxy hops and fresh pineapple)
Rose City Pepperheads Rage 'N Red jalapeno jam
- Kroger pink grapefruit seltzer water
- Candied poppy seed rim
- Lime garnish

"Lara's Strawberry Witch"
All of us at this Test Kitchen were familiar with those wrapped candies often found at Grandma's house, the hard strawberry candy in the twisted-top foil wrapper printed to look like a strawberry. We bet you know what we're talking about, too, and if you like those you'll like this cocktail. Named for the liqueur Lara brought, this cocktail has its sweetness balanced by citrus.
- Homemade strawberry liqueur*
- Great Notion Strawberry Taffy (milkshake IPA with strawberries and vanilla beans)
- Homemade strawberry jam
- Lemon juice

"Butterscotch Lemon Drop"
One can find a version of a lemon drop on nearly any cocktail menu. Ours combines a straight forward vodka, a shandy beer and lemon curd, dolled up in a fancy crystal wedding flute (thank goodness those glasses are finally getting put to use!).
Eastside Distilling Portland Potato Vodka
Coalition Brewing Harvest Shandy (CBD lemon shandy with Goschie Farms hops)
Bonne Maman lemon curd
- Lemon slice garnish

All in all, this was one of our most successful test kitchens and we'll certainly be looking to our pantry/fridge in the future when we want to whip up a cocktail with a fruity component. If you haven't tried it yourself, we challenge you to grab whatever jam you have on hand and mix one up.

*If you've been inspired and want to make your own fruit liqueur, check this out for directions. Perhaps that's what you'll be handing out over the holidays to lucky folks.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Terp Fest NW - Inaugural Beer & Cider Festival

A first ever of its kind beer and cider festival debuts at Cider Riot! this Saturday, September 21. Terp Fest NW will feature eight different beers and ciders infused with non-cannabinoid based terpenes from local company True Terpenes. 

Although the prevalence of commercially produced terpenes has risen with the full legalization of cannabis, one of the goals of this festival is awareness, normalization and education about these compounds. For those wondering A) what terpenes are and B) how are they related, or not related, to cannabis the short answer is that terpenes are a large and diverse class of organic compounds produced by a variety of plants (including cannabis), that give each flower, herb and fruit its own unique scent and flavor. For a longer explanation, check out True Terpenes' terpology pageBIG NOTE: None of the beers or ciders presented at this festival contain any amount of CBD or THC.

Recently we were able to preview some of the festival's offerings. Take a gander.
Cider Riot! Sage and Savory - The first whiff of this cider is solidly savory while the flavor rides the line between a semi-dry cider and a savory creation that seems screams out to be paired with food. The 6% cider is a combination of the cidery's Everyday cider, sage-infused cider brandy and Cherry Pie terpenes. 

West Coast Grocery Co. Sonic Cherry Lime Blast - Inspired by the Sonic restaurant chain's cherry limeade, it sports an amber-red color and uses Black Lime terpenes blended with their key lime and cherry lacto IPA. A complex beer popping with flavor, it is reminiscent of a well-crafted cocktail where the sum is far greater than its parts.

Xylem Cider Works Trans-dimensional Cowboy - Xylem is the originator of terpene ciders even though according to Co-Founder Nick Fillis they don't want to be known for just that. Be that as it may, this semi-dry cider is a work of drinkable art. Starting off with a swoon-worthy horse blanket aroma, the flavor brings together blueberries and Jack Herer terpenes, finishing with a crisp citrus-ness.

We will leave it at for that for now because we wouldn't want to give away all the fest has to offer. Plus you know you want to experience it first hand! So come and learn how terpenes can be used to enhance the craft beverages we love.

Terp Fest NW
Saturday, September 21st 12-8pm
Cider Riot!
807 NE Couch Street
Tickets in advance or at the door: 
$15 - Terp Fest NW festival glass + 4 tasting tickets
$25 - Terp Fest NW festival glass + 8 tasting tickets