Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Fancy or Simple, Say Cheese This Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us and whether that means attending gatherings, hosting gatherings or doing some of each, having some, quick, easy go-to foods at hand can help reduce some of the inevitable stress. ‘Round here we are partial to things that pair well with beer and cheese, most any kind of cheese, tops that list. Cheese plates are great, a simple baguette with soft cheese can be divine and we've recently found out about a “looks fancy but is super easy” product - Baked Brie en Croute from Marin French Cheese.

In existence since 1865, Marin French is the longest continually operating cheese company in America, located in Petaluma, CA. Wrapping their traditional Brie in a croissant-style pastry crust takes the cheese to another level in both flavor and presentation. Just 25 minutes in the oven creates a crust that is golden and flaky, encasing an ooey, gooey center. Its easily transportable size recently accompanied us to our favorite watering hole where we found it to be delicious with a glass of beer.

Nearly as easy as popping a Baked Brie en Croute in the oven is grabbing a baguette and a soft cheese or two from the store. Plain goat cheese is an obvious choice for something that spreads easily but there are plenty of flavored soft cheeses as well. We quite enjoy mushrooms so Laura Chenel’s Marinated Black Truffle Cabecou was right up our alley for a savory option; blue cheese is always another winner. Flavorings can also go a sweet route, either by topping a schmear of cheese with a dollop of preserves or picking up one like Cranberry & Cinnamon. A bit skeptical as we opened up the round of cheese, we were soon won over by the incredibly balanced flavor that we found to pair well with Ruse Strand, a West Coast IPA.

If you’re in the mood for a bit more cheese plates are another sure fire winner and can be as simple or as complex, as munchable or as meal-able, as you’d like to make them. Marin French offers a straightforward guide on putting one together and the cheese counter at your favorite store can help guide your selections further if desired.

Disclaimer: We were provided with samples for review.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Pressing Matters Brings Cider and Cask Beer Together

We’re not sure how Pressing Matters Proper Cider and Real Ale Festival missed our radar last year but we’re pleased to see it hit the radar of enough others for it to make it back to Cider Riot! for a second year. The festival, taking place Saturday, November 17th, brings together the work of 15 cideries and and seven breweries from around Cascadia. The ciders range from those made bittersweet apples to those from bittersharp apples, combining innovations from America with fermentation traditions from England and France. And the all-cask ale lineup offers a greater selection of this traditional style than one is likely to find without a visit to the TSA.

Upon reviewing the cider and beer line up we see many familiar names although we have not had many ciders and we've only had one of the beers, albeit in non-cask form. The three year vertical of Cider Riot!’s 1763 is intriguing and we’ll be interested to see if the same recipe was used each year and if so, how it has aged. In addition, since we drink a comparably small amount of cider this will be a good opportunity to try more.

On the beer side, Baerlic’s New Noise IPA is the only one we’ve previously had an while we quite enjoyed it, the cask version could be considerably different. Both Gigantic and Machine House are bringing styles that lend themselves to cask, English Pale Ale and Bitter respectively, and while Marzen is not a style we find ourselves drawn toward, the Brewers Union offering should showcase well in a cask and alongside ciders.

If you’re as intrigued as we are, then we’ll see you there. Otherwise you shall have to hear about it after the fact, perhaps while kicking yourself for not taking advantage of one of the more unique festivals to grace Portland this year.

Pressing Matters Proper Cider and Real Ale Festival
Saturday, November 17th 1 - 8pm
Cider Riot!
807 NE Couch
Tickets in advance and at the door, $20 - $40

Disclaimer: We have been offered a media pass to attend the festival.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Beer Cocktails: Rum Edition

For our second installment of beer cocktails we chose the general category of rum to work with, leaving ourselves plenty of options by having light rum, dark rum, spiced rum and even Malibu coconut rum (which likely conjures up very specific memories for anyone). With such a wide array of liquor flavor profiles the beers we opted not to limit ourselves to a beer style and selected ones were equally wide ranging. Like any experiment there were some great ones and some “work in progress” (to be revisited and refined in the future) ones, the former of which are below.

Fell into a Pile of Leaves
- Whaler’s Rare Reserve Dark Rum
- Reuben’s Autumn Harvest Imperial Pumpkin Ale
- club soda
- coconut sugar
- candied jalapeno simple syrup
- white sugar rim
- candied jalapeno and roasted delicata squash garnish

Dry and mild with a distinctive “fall” taste. The pumpkin ale is one of the better ones we’ve had, providing a full aroma, yet restrained in the level of pumpkin pie spices found in the flavor with a well balanced body. In the candid words of Lee, “Ah, shit, that’s divine!”

Spicy Jungle Rum-tini
- Whaler’s Rare Reserve Dark Rum
- Evil Twin You’re in the Jungle
- Natian Cease & Desist stout (2018)
- cacao juice
- coconut sugar rim

One of the later creations from this session, a time when we were venturing further afiled, we used two beers in this cocktail - the stout to provide both body for the cocktail and as a balance to the heat of the Evil Twin, a habanero peppers-containing beer. Much deeper and darker than the previous cocktail using the same rum, it tastes like what comes after fall - the holidays.

Santa’s Dirty Little Secret
- Havana Club Puerto Rican Rum (aƱjeo blanco)
- Natian Cease & Desist stout (2018)
- homemade Kahlua
- heavy cream

This fairly straightforward cocktail was loosely based on the flavors of a White Russian and it was pleasing to find that each of the ingredients we choose stood up to the others. Cascading and combing over our palate, the multiple layers of flavor change with each sip. We think Santa would be quite pleased to find this “dirty milk” in place of the standard glass of white alongside his cookies. Speaking of cookies, we happened to have some coffee crunch cookies, a take on chocolate chip cookies, on hand that provided yet another layer of flavor. If you’re good little boys and girls we might share our recipe for these crunchy, coffee-forward delights.

You Put the Lime in the Coconut
- Malibu Coconut Rum
- Crooked Stave Sour Rose
- club soda
- cranberry juice
- sugar rim
- lime garnish

Just the aroma out of the freshly cracked bottle of Malibu made us want to find a beach, slather on some back-in-the-day tanning oil and relax. Instead we put our heads to work, coming up with a combination of sour/tart beer and cranberry juice to offset the overwhelming coconut profile of the rum, taking this from a 20-something drink to that a 35+ crowd wouldn’t be embarrassed to drink. The use of club soda boosted the carbonation provided by the beer for a cocktail that screams “lawn chair STAT and keep my glass filled!” regardless of the time of year.

Dark & Stormy Natian
- The Kraken Black Spiced Rum
- Natian Cease & Desist stout (2018)
- Cock'n Bull ginger beer

Once again taking inspiration from a traditional cocktail, this time a Dark & Stormy, we put a beer spin onto it, betting the stout would compliment the “dark” characteristics of the rum in this sipper. Keeping the cocktail from being overly dark was the ginger provided by the Cock'n Bull and the next time we make this we'll expand on that with a candied ginger garnish.

With two editions of beer cocktails behind us (here's the first one in case you missed it), we're looking forward to continuing to use our creative juices to bridge the gap between a pint of beer and a cocktail.