Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Craft Beer + Spirits = Brewstillery Festival

StormBreaker's Brewstillery festival will take place this Saturday and brings together craft beer and spirits in carefully selected pairs. Now before you dismiss this festival, siting your preference to stick to craft beer on its own, as I almost did when I first heard about it, give me a chance to change your mind. In fact, let's start with a brief intro from Rob about how the festival came about.

Last week I had the opportunity to try some of the pairings and while not all of them were for me it was definitely an eye-opening experience, one that left me with a greater appreciation of spirits. The pairings are designed for one to alternate sips of the beer and the spirit, taking the time to swirl the spirit around in the mouth and taste how it interacts with the beer it has been paired with. The majority of the spirits are whiskey/whisky or bourbon but even if those aren't up your alley you'll also find gin, rum, vodka and liqueur pairings, including a liqueur called "hopka" which is an 80 proof, vodka-base infused with Citrus and Cascade hops.

While I didn't drink all of them (nor would I recommend attempting that feat on your own either) there were two that I particularly enjoyed. The first was Bull Run Temperance Trader whiskey and StormBreaker BBA Winter Coat. The beer was aged in Bull Run barrels for two months and the whiskey is a blend of four- and seven-year-old varieties. The sweetness in the beer is brought out by the whiskey and in turn the beer mellows the alcohol bite.

The other pairing that captured my attention was Aviation Gin and Breakside's collaboration beer with Fat Head's, Juggling Plums Gose. Both parts of the pairing I would happily drink alone and the pairing pleasantly combines the coriander in the gin with the savory saltiness of the beer, imparted by the Japanese salt plums that were blended in post-fermentation into the bright tank. 

So, how did I do? Do you believe this "beer-only" drinker that this is a festival you don't want to miss out on? If so, get your tickets now and save $5 on the door price. If not, I guess you can take your chances, skip it and then cry in your beer on Sunday when you hear what a great time it in fact was.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Pairing Girl Scout Cookes & Beer: 2015 Edition

After taking a hiatus in 2014 and propelled by a friend's niece selling Girl Scout cookies, I got back on the cookies and beer pairing horse with some friends over the weekend. This time around we used this article as a starting point for our pairings, using the specific beers suggested when possible; the rest of the time selecting beers we felt had similar flavor profiles.

The short version of the experiment was that we weren't in agreement with the article about many of the pairings and the beer that worked the best with the greatest number of cookies was Lindemans Framboise. While it makes sense from the perspective of it having a strong fruit flavor it was surprising that this very sweet beer and the sweetness of the cookies actually worked instead of just being an instant sugar high leading into a sugar coma.
  • With the Savannah Smiles it was like eating a lemon cake topped with fresh berries; a pretty good transformation of these powdered sugar triangles.
  • Drinking it with the Tagalongs, the chocolate-covered peanut butter patties, the fruitiness got along with both flavors better than suspected.
  • Hands down though the cookie that it went best with and we all agreed was the best pairing of the night was with the Do-Si-Dos. Here the peanut butter sandwich cookies played the roll of the bread and peanut butter with the beer playing the roll of the jelly for the greatest not-pb&j you'll ever have.

The most difficult cookie to pair with anything was the Thin Mints. We didn't have access to any of the suggested beers but felt the style recommended, stout, was the correct path. Block 15 Interstellar Darkness was on tap and one we thought would work well with a number of the cookies. It was really close to working with the Thin Mints but it just couldn't to seal the deal. What did work was Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. This is a beer either you love all 10.5% of it or one that just the pour into the glass looks too much like actual motor oil for you to fathom drinking. If you fall in the former camp, grab a can and a sleeve of Thin Mints.

For as much as none of us were impressed with it on its own, the Savannah Smiles was probably the most agreeable cookie of the pairing. We kicked off the experiment with them and St. Bernadus Wit, chosen by Chris as a substitution for the WestBrook White Thai/Jester King Biere de Miel that were suggested. The mildly flavored, low ABV wit played well with the lemony cookies. Later on one of us got the idea to try an IPA with it. As it turned out Lost Coast Sharkinator, a hoppy white IPA, made for a nice pairing as well. And of course, as previously mentioned it was a slam dunk with the Framboise.

Right now you can't throw a stone without hitting a Girl Scout selling cookies and whether or not you really want them you'll probably end up with some. So make the best of it and have fun with your beer at the same time.

If you're so inclined, check out my pairing attempts from 2013.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mmm...McMenamins Sleepy Hollow & Beer-Cheese Bites

Faithful readers know that I like food as much as I like beer and I can't help but playing with the two. Recently I'd culled my pile of recipes I had been collecting (hoping to make them at some point) during which time I re-found one for beer muffins. The timing was perfect, having just picked up a grumbler of McMenamins Sleepy Hollow Nut Brown, as I wasn't interested in using a stout or IPA (two of the most common styles found in my fridge) to try it out.

The beer is one of the nuttiest representations of the style even though no nuts were harmed in the making of the beer. As with many nut browns, it starts with a mild aroma, followed by an even milder upfront flavor but what sets this beer apart is the nuttiness that kicks in just as one is starting to think it's going to leave you hanging and leaves a pleasant aftertaste. After enjoying an introduction to the beer on its own I dove into making the recipe, altering it from standard muffin size to mini size, perfect for sharing and snacking on alongside a beer.

As luck would have it I didn't need all of the beer for the recipe and not long after I pulled the little buggers out of the oven I had to have one (ok, maybe more than one) with the beer. And you know what? Even though the mini muffins have plenty of flavor on their own they didn't overshadow the beer, allowing the nuttiness to still come through. I'd call that a win.

If you want to try your hand at some of these delicious bites, here's the recipe. And if you want to get some Sleepy Hollow, you've got about 10 days left to do so. After that the next McMenamins seasonal will be coming into rotation.