Friday, February 24, 2012

Sap House Meadery

This week is vacation week . . . unfortunately for everyone else, as well.  So much for a peaceful week in the White Mountains glutting on micro-brews and majestic snow covered mountain peaks.   Don’t get me wrong . . . we are still imbibing quite ubiquitously on liquid bread but it’s not so quiet with all the invasive rugrats crunching crumbs and whatnot.  

It amazes me how many parents drag their kids into bars and pubs when there are plenty of kid friendly places to be visit.

Not to be deterred, we will not sequester ourselves in our small but cozy room with our faces glued to our laptops and noses stuffed into a book . . . or Kindle, as it were . . . although we will make plenty of time for that as well.

The other day we ventured out to a local meadery owned and operated by a couple of young men in Center Ossipee, New Hampshire . . . the Sap House Meadery.  Center Ossipee is by no means a bustling metropolis . . . it a quaint little town that is quiet in the winter time and teeming in the summer due to the plethora of lakes in the area. The Sap House is a small establishment located in what was once a local grocery.  
Owners Ash Fischbein and Matt Trahan (from left) 

Owners Ash Fischbein and Matt Trahan (from left) 
As we walked in the door we were greeted warmly by a pleasant relaxed atmosphere and one of the proprietors, Ash Fishbein, who was offering up samples of his wares.  We also met co-owner Matt Trahan and Mom.

At the time of our visit, the business has been in operation for just over a year.  And, by the looks of things they are off to a great start.  The presentation of their product is tasteful as are the contents they contain.

Like many of the businesses in this area, they make every effort to support the regional economy by using only locally produced ingredients for their meads.  And, when that is not possible, they make sure that the ingredients are fair trade certified.

We did a sampling of their four main offerings and one seasonal.  We were not disappointed.  They were all quite different and delicious . . . not typical of the meads I’ve had in the past, the Sap House meads are less sweet and on the drer side.

Ash, mazer (slang for mead maker) extraordinaire and our bartender for the sampling . . . besides plying us with the lovingly made luscious liquid . . . regaled us with the history of mead and its primary ingredient honey.

If you’ve never had mead it’s very different from wine or beer.  It is, in fact, a honey wine that is millennia old . . . archeological discoveries as far back as 8,000 to 12,000 B.C.  At its simplest mead can be described as an alcoholic drink of fermented honey and water.  Of course, modern mead makers have expanded the basic recipe.  At the Sap House Meadery, they offer up a rich Vanilla Bean, smooth Sugar Maple, citrusy Hopped Blueberry and dry-ish pyment (which is made with a red wine grape juice) called Ossipioja .  All in all . . . YUM!

Honey . . . the main ingredient in mead . . . has been forever used for food and medicinal purposes.  As Ash describes it . . . the honeymoon has long been a wedding tradition.  The honey in honeymoon comes from an old northern European custom in which newlyweds would, for a month, consume a daily cup of mead.  It is thought that the honey would increase the chances of a boy child being conceived.    If nothing else the intoxicating effects of the mead would surely encourage  . . . uhm . . . sexy time.

Not surprisingly, mead was the preferred drink during the Meditteranean “Age of Gold” . . . however, interestingly enough, the word for drunk in classical Greek translates to "intoxicated with honey".

We walked out of the store feeling the pleasant effects of the mead and four bottles of the heavenly nectar.  We were in no way dissatisfied. . . in fact, we were extremely impressed.  Cheers guys!!  We will be back.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Angry Orchard Ciders

We were hanging out and enjoying the night life of one of our favorite pubs, The Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub in Glen, NH.   Besides the ever present live entertainment and their amazing food offerings they always have a plethora of beer on tap or in bottles and cans.

On our recent visit there I spotted a new tap in their line up . . . Angry Orchard Cider.   We'd been beering it up already that day so I was in the mood for something different.  I like hard cider and the name was intriguing . . . kind of like the Angry Birds of apples.  Works for me!

Crisp apple was the variety on tap.  I liked it!  It was crisp, flavorful and not too sweet.  Overall it was quite refreshing and exceedingly drinkable.  In a word . . . YUM!

As I was sipping my drunken apples, I got to thinking about the origins of this cider . . . where it came from and who made it.

I'd never heard of Angry Orchard before, but I had visions of an modest family owned orchard branching out from producing batches of apple cider to bottling their old family recipe for hard cider.

I was a little off base there . . . well, quite a bit off base actually.

In quick order, my research lead me to discover that Angry Orchard is owned and operated by Boston Beer, Co . . . makers of a better known product line Samuel Adams.  Boston Beer Co quietly launched this new line in their multitudes of brews in 2011 with little fuss or fan fare.

Don't get me wrong . . . I like Sam Adams beer.  They just can't be considered one of the little guys anymore.  And the imagery my brain concocted of a small, locally owned micro-brewery was blown right out of the water . . . right out of the Boston Harbor, actually.

They currently have three varieties . . . Traditional Dry, Crisp Apple and Apple Ginger.  ABV - 5%

As a side note, if it is of any consequence to you, Angry Orchard Ciders are both gluten-fee and Kosher certified.

The verdict? I liked it . . . a lot.  Would I recommend it?  Yes. 


New Brew Thursday

I’m kind of a beer aficionado . . . that is, I enjoy a variety of styles and flavors of brews.  When I see something new I actively seek it out to try it.  Hubby and I both log our beer drinking activities on which is a social network for beer enthusiasts.

Don't get me wrong . . . I don't claim to be an expert on beer.  I just know what I like . . . and don't like.

Also I am . . . by no means  . . . a beer snob.  I'm as happy to drink a cheap-o mass produced beer as I am a $25 a bottle limited edition micro-brew.  It depends on the where and when and what for of the beer drinking situation.

Untappd has badges for different things . . . drinking a certain number of dark beers, or drinking a beer at the brewery where it is made, or on a drinking holiday and so on and so forth.  They have a badge for what they call New Brew Thursday . . . which is if you consume a new (to you) beer three Thursdays in a thirty day period you get a badge . . . and then a different degree of badge going forward.

This has been a motivator . . . albeit a minor one . . . to try new and interesting beers . . . on Thursdays. 

In an effort to share my experiences with the new and interesting brews we are enjoying I’ve decided to do a post on Thursdays reviewing the beers we drank the previous week.

I hope you can take some of my experiences and apply that knowledge to future beer purchases and consumption.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Places to eat and drink in the White Mountains of NH

Since we're vacationing in the White Mountains this week I think it's appropriate that my premier review is about my favorite food and drink places to patronize while visiting this area:

These are our must visit places and a trip isn’t the same without a one or all of these places. (Usually not all of them on the same day!)

Outstanding beers brewed on the premises.  Our absolute favorite . . .  their blueberry beer.  It’s a yummy wheat beer that is available all year round.   My second favorite is the Hoffman Weiss, a flavorful wheat beer that is simply amazing.  This time of year the seasonal brew is . . .  Moat Octoberfest, a malty rich beer.  Oh and served in pints or 20 oz glasses.  The food at the Moat is nothing to turn your nose up at either.  The in house barbeque and awesome burgers are to drool over but my all-time favorite is their hush puppies served with real maple syrup.  OMG so good!

A great place to go on a Friday or Saturday night when there’s always a live band.   The bar staff are personable and amusing . . . especially Shelley.  The steaks are un-freaking-believable; aged and cooked just the way you like.  They have beer on tap from local micro breweries and house special concoctions like Tommy’s margaritas and Bloody Marys.

The place to go on a Sunday afternoon when they have Irish seisún, or pub session.  Local musicians hang out in the bar and jam, they are incredibly good.   The atmosphere is eclectic and fun with all manner of collectible and whatnots scattered throughout.  The food . . . Irish perfection – MY favorite is her sirloin tips . . . I don’t know what she marinates those things in but they are a taste of heaven.  May Kelly can be seen running around the place like a maniac making sure everything is perfect . . . And it usually is.  All the favorite Irish brews are on tap and served in a correct glass WITH A PROPER POUR.

This place is a favorite.  Woodstock brews their own beer on site and it’s seriously good stuff!  Though all their beers are remarkable, my seasonal favorite is the Raspberry Wheat, which is their summer offering.   No wait, my seasonal favorite is the Autumn Ale, which is a simply delicious apple spice beer . . . must I have to choose between them?   No, actually I don’t since they serve them up at different times of the year.  The food is so so good.  Their wings are hot as hell, if you want them that way.  Their burgers are big and juicy.  They make most of their own bread with the spent grains from the brewing process.  YUM!  We always make sure to grab a couple of growlers of beer on the way out.  BTW, they also make their own root beer.

A nice cozy restaurant with truly authentic margaritas and Mexican fare.  The food is excellent and the margaritas are outstanding . . . by the glass, pitcher, frozen or whatever.   The best fajitas I've had . . . ANYWHERE!  

Tuckermans isn’t a place to eat or drink, not really.  It’s a local brewery that does tours.  It’s a small operation and the tour is quick.  The best part . . . they give free samples . . . mmmmmm fresh beer!  You typically can’t find their brews outside of Maine and New Hampshire, but you will find their beers on tap at most of the local pubs. 

So, now you know what we do when we go to New Hampshire.  And you thought it was all about the awesome riding!