Friday, May 31, 2013

Beer and Women

Prime 16 - Beer and Burgers

Last night was the opening of the Orange location of Prime 16 - tap house and burger bar. Opening nights are often pretty rough; as much for the staff  as for the patrons.   I'll admit there were a few hiccups in our service but, overall, it was good.  We were promptly greeted and seated.  Due to some technical difficulties our server was delayed.  However, from the moment Wolfgang arrived at our table he was eager, courteous and timely.  

Prime 16 has a great menu with some creative burger choices. As much as I love a good burger I was really there for the beer.  

Prime 16 has 30 craft beers on tap.  That's pretty extraordinary. But its the quality and diversity of the draft brews that really impressive. Obviously, I couldn't try them all. Thankfully, I had already had the pleasure of several of those on the list so I was able to narrow down my choices somewhat. There were still many interesting beers to choose from.

I shared a few with my husband and got samples of a couple others.  I wish I could have tried more but we all have our limits.  But I happily put a nice little dent in the beer menu.

Existent Black Saison (7.4% ABV) by Stillwater Artisanal Ales served in an 8-ounce wine goblet.  The appearance was black and dense as pitch with the remnants of a bright creamy head that left behind nice lacing on the glass. The aroma was interesting for a saison, roasty coffee with a whiff of wheat.  The flavor was equally intriguing.  A combination of coffee, tart citrus and wheat. It finishes dark roasty coffee.  Medium mouthfeel with nice carbonation. It sounds like it wouldn't work, but it does.  Think black IPA and farmhouse saison and you'll get a general idea.  Overall: very good!

Even More Jesus Russian Imperial Stout (12.00% ABV) by Evil Twin Brewing served in a scant 6-ounce snifter glass at a whopping $11 pricetag.  The manager explained that there were only 3 kegs of this brew in the state, so it's a rarity but still . . .  The appearance was black as black with the remains of a dense mocha colored head.  The booze is immediately detectable in the nose followed by espresso.  The taste is roasty coffee and dark chocolate with a brandy-like quality.  The finish is pleasantly bitter.  The mouthfeel is full and creamy with nice carbonation. The alcohol add a pleasant warming sensation. It's interesting to note that the beer gets sweeter as it rises to room temperature.  Take your time to experience the nuances this brew has to offer.  Overall: excellent.

Le Freak Belgian IPA (9.20% ABV) by Green Flash Brewing served in an 8-ounce wine goblet.  The appearance was a bright hazy gold with a skim of foam. The aroma is citrus and floral hops with a tease of wheat.  The taste is immediately bitter.  The hops are tempered by the sweetness of the malt and grains.  Very nicely balanced.  The finish is crisp and bitter.  The alcohol is very well disguised.  A tasty brew!  Overall: very good!

La Fin Du Monde Belgian Trippel (9.00% ABV) by Unibroue served as a sample.  The appearance was a cloudy lemon color with a trace of a head.  The aroma is a combination of fruit, wheat and spice with a definite booziness.  The taste is very much the same with a clear alcohol presence.  The finish is clean and warming. This is a bold but very drinkable brew.  Overall: excellent

Nuova Mattina Italian Saison (5.00% ABV) by Birrificio Del Ducato 
served in an 8-ounce wine goblet.  The appearance was a hazy honey gold with a fluffy white head.  The aroma is wheaty with a tease of citrus.  The taste is lemon and other citrus flavors with a solid wheat backbone.  There is also a hint of clove.  The finish is crisp and clean.  Overall: very good.

Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale (9.50% ABV) by Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing served as a sample.  The appearance was a deep rich cherry with a fringe of foam around the edge of the glass.  The aroma as dark fruits, brown sugar, roasty grains and a hint of smoke.  The flavor is sweet malts, dark fruit and something off I couldn't quite put my finger on.  The is a clear alcohol presence that is both tasted and felt.  The finish is boozy.  Very brandy-like. Overall: very good.

Humboldt Brown Hemp Ale (5.70% ABV) by Firestone Walker Brewing 
served in an 16-ounce shaker pint glass.  The appearance was dark brown with cherry highlights with a bright white head.  The aroma is very mellow with hints of malt and must. The flavor was very light.  A little malty, a little bitter and something indecipherable (hemp?).  Really not all that interesting and lacking.  Overall:  meh

Black Cherry Hard Cider (5% ABV) by Mckenzie's Hard Cider served on the rocks in a tall pilsner glass. The aroma is very very black cherry.  The taste is the perfect combination of black cherry and hard apple cider.  This is a seriously tasty beverage!  The mouthfeel is light, cool and refreshing.  Exceptional drinkability.  This is a winner!! Overall: excellent.

I was duly impressed by the fact that each of the beers were served the perfect temperature for the style.  The stout was served on the warmer side while the IPA was chilled to perfection.  

Many of the pours were much smaller than I expected.  So, I questioned the manager about how they decided which glassware to select for each beer.  The size and style of the glass is determined by four factors: alcohol volume, style, availability and cost.

Understandable, however, I still think the pours were short in many cases.  And, I thought some of the prices were out of line for what was delivered.  That being said, the brews were varied and interesting.

I also enjoyed a burger.  I ordered the Stuffed Mushroom Burger with a side of Black and Tan Onion Rings.  The burger was cooked just right and was really yummy (could've been a might bit bigger).  The onion rings were crisp and tasty.

Prime 16 has a fantastic selection of beer, good food, pleasant atmosphere and friendly staff.  

I think given time and a little tweaking they'll be a great place for burgers and beer.

Give them a shot!

Update (6/1/13):  I received an e-mail from Bob Potter (owner of Prime 16) regarding my review of Even More Jesus Russian Imperial Stout.  He says that this is a 9.25 ounce brandy snifter with a 7-8 ounce pour.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cooking with beer - Smoky Pale Ale Cheese Sauce

This beer cheese is rich and flavorful.  There a little texture and spiciness that comes from the Guinness Mustard, you can tone that down by adding a little less or using a milder mustard.  The pale ale adds a hint of bitterness that is just lovely.

I used this as a topper for a burger but it would be perfect as a fondue to dip crusty bread or vegetables in.


Smoky Pale Ale Cheese Sauce

3 Cloves Garlic
1 Cup Pale Ale 
2 Cups Smoked Gouda, Shredded
2 Teaspoons Cornstarch
2 Teaspoons Guinness Mustard

Smash the garlic with the bottom of a glass or a flat knife and rub the bottom of a heavy saucepan with the cloves. Leave the cloves in the bottom of the pan and pour the beer over them.  I used Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Bring the beer a boil over high heat.

In a small bowl, toss the shredded cheese with the cornstarch to coat.  

Once the beer has come to a boil, stir in the cheese.  Bring back to a boil then reduce the heat.

The sauce should be thickening up, at this point.  

Stir in the mustard.  Add salt and pepper, if desired.  

Continue stirring as the cheese sauce simmers and reaches desired consistency, about 5 minutes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pemi Pale Ale

This was a gateway beer for me. Pemi Pale was the beer that opened my palate to my love - nay lust - of hoppy beer.

It was an earth shattering revelation really. Before I drank a Pemi Pale Ale on tap at Woodstock Inn Brewery any beer that was bitter or even remotely hoppy was a complete turn off to me.  I turned my nose up at many a hopped brew in favor of their mellower brethren.

One sip of this beer and the heavens opened and a choir of angels sang. Oh my firkin goodess!  That was it, I was hooked.  From that moment on I was in search of the hoppiest, bitterest, lip-smackin'est  beers I could get my greedy little hands on.

Is this the greatest pale ever?  No. But it is a good one.  I would never turn one down!

Pemi Pale Ale (5.7% ABV) pours a rich amber color with a dense head; a pretty rich color for a pale ale, very nice.

The aroma is citrussy, bready and malty.  It's all good.

The taste is immediately bitter.  The citrus takes back stage to a more earthy hop but is still in evidence. This is backed up by sweet caramel hops that mellow out some of the initial bitter.  But the finish is pleasantly bitter.  

The mouthfeel is medium with good bubbly carbonation.  Refreshing and very drinkable.  I know, I've drank a lot of them!

Pemi Pale Ale is a tasty brew.  A good example of the style.

Overall: very good!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jalapeno Pepper and Cocoa Imperial Stout Infusion

When made my first beer infusion I used ingredients I knew would go great in an imperial stout - cocoa and coffee.  There are plenty of coffee and chocolate stouts out there as evidence.

My next infusion I got a little more creative and daring.  Using a French press, I infused jalapeno pepper and Dominican ground cocoa nibs with Samuel Adams Imperial Stout.  

I've had pepper beers before.  A great example was a jalepeno pilsner that Two Roads recently casked and I had the pleasure of having a glass (or three) (maybe four) of.  I am also a fan of Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero, a chocolate chili imperial stout.  So, there is a taste precedent that I find most agreeable.

Jalapeno Pepper / Cocoa Imperial Stout Infusion

Pour one teaspoon cocoa nibs into the pot along with a couple slices jalapeno pepper with the seeds. Top that with a 12 ounce bottle of beer. Gently stir to release the grounds trapped in the foam so that they will fall into the beer. Let the cocoa and pepper slices rest in the beer for 3 minutes.  Finally, press the filter down slowly and pour into a glass.  

The results were interesting but good.  The aroma was very chocolaty with a hint of pepper.  The cocoa added a nice chocoalate flavor to the stout, but I was a little disappointed at how little pepper flavor carried through.  But as I continued to drink a very pleasant capsaicin warmth began to build; not a burn, just a nice soft warming.  It was very pleasant to drink.  

I think the beer overpowered the pepper flavor and a four minute infused would have pulled more of the pepper taste into the beer.  But overall, it was quite nice.

The transformation in the stout was fantastic.  The cocoa and pepper didn't detract from the beer, only added flavor and sensation.  Awesomeness!


Note:  I use Choffee brand ground cocoa  nibs.  This infusion used La Española.  They can be ordered directly from my friend Kat here. Let her know you heard about them from me.  

New Dogtown

Lagunitas New Dogtown?  What happened to the old dogtown?  I noticed some writing around the edge of the label but couldn't quite make it out.  I wonder if that's a clue?  Let's take a closer look.
Hmm, it says that it is not the original Dogtown Pale Ale.  Okay, so there was another version of this beer.  Interesting.

As I read on, this brew is supposed to be better.  Well, that's always a good thing!  

It goes on to say that the original beer tasted like broccoli and kerosene and was dangerously carbonated.  Oh come on now!  I can't imagine any Lagunitas beer being bad let alone tasting like that!

That's all the label says.  Not too helpful but at least I'm getting somewhere.  A little digging reveals that in 2007-ish Lagunitas brewed a limited edition beer called Kill Ugly Radio honoring that lovable freak Frank Zappa.  

Some weissenheimer at the brewery got the brainiacical idea to mix the old Dogtown Pale Ale with Kill Ugly Radio and New Dogtown Pale Ale was created.

Just like that.  A miracle.  Sort of.

New Dogtown (6.10% ABV)  pours a clear gold with a thick white glass grabbing head.  The complexion in the glass is a deep reddish gold.  Amazing lacing!

The aroma is citrus, resin, bread and malt. Interesting and complex.  Totally mouthwatering.

The initial flavor is of grapefruit and pine followed by bread like undertones.  Malt tone down the hops a bit creating a good balance between the bitter and sweet. The finish is citrus and a pleasant lingering bitterness.  

The mouthfeel is medium with plenty of carbonation to lighten it up.  

New Dogtown is a crisp, refreshing beer.  I never had the pleasure of an old Dogtown, but this one is a winner.

Lagunitas makes me happy, once again.  It doesn't really take a lot to make me happy.  Good beer makes me happy.  

Overall: very good.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Strawberry Hefeweizen Shandy

This is a bright refreshing beer cocktail that mixes the tartness of lemonade, the sweetness of strawberries with the wheatiness of a good summer wheat beer.  

The perfect refresher for a hot summer day.

Strawberry Hefeweizen Shandy

2 Ounces Homemade Fizzy Lemonade (recipe below)
2 Ounces Strawberry Infused Vodka Liquor (recipe below)
12 Ounces Hefeweizen 

Pour lemonade and strawberry vodka into a 16 ounce glass.

Slowly, add the beer to the glass. I used Two Roads No Limits Hefeweizen.

Stir gently and serve.  

Homemade Fizzy Lemonade

1/2 Cup Raw Sugar 
1/2 Cup water 
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
2 Cups Plain Seltzer (to dilute)

Make simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved completely.

While the sugar is dissolving, use a juicer to extract the juice from 4 small lemons, enough for 1/2 cup of juice.

Add the juice and the sugar water to a pitcher. Add 2 cups of cold seltzer. 

Strawberry Infused Vodka Liquor

Take 2 cups of fresh clean strawberries, hulled and cut in half and put into a clean 1 quart jar   The stawberries should fill the jar halfway. Next pour in the vodka to the top leaving about a half inch of headspace.  

Place cool, dark place. Give the jar a little shake once a day.  

After a couple days you will notice that the strawberries are being leeched of color and turning a sickly albino white.  Don't panic, this is normal.  All the color and flavor is going into the vodka.

In a week strain the solids from the liquid.  You will end up with a wonderful strawberry flavored vodka that is a beautiful red color.

Mix it with a cooled simple syrup - 1/2 cup raw sugar dissolved into a 1/2 cup boiling water. 

Mix 1 part infused vodka to a 1/2 part of the simple syrup.  

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strange brew and a smoke

I was invited to a Memorial Day picnic.  Like most picnics there were tables loaded with food, a grill piled high with burgers and coolers full of beer.  

My buddy, knowing my love of good craft brew, handed me a Bigfoot barleywine.  Hmmm, okay.  Off to a good start.  Sweet!

Next he handed me. . . wait, what?? Was ist das??

Kirkland Signature brand beer.  Huh? Costco brand beer? Really?

As I suspected, the beer isn't actually brewed by Costco, it is contract brewed.  But by who?  The bottle says it's brewed by New Yorker Brewing Company in Utica, NY. Who are they?  You might be surprised to know that New Yorker Brewing is also known as Matt Brewing Company who is best known for brewing Saranac beer.  I have to say that I was surprised to discover that F.X. Matt Brewing Company is the second oldest family-owned brewery in the United States (D. G. Yuengling & Son is the oldest).

In my experience, Saranac beer is average craft beer.  Not bad but nothing special.  

At the time, I didn't know who was actually brewing the Kirkland beer but I was still very curious about the quality of the brew and how it would taste.  For $19.99 a 24-pack, these things are worth knowing.

Since I was at an outdoor party, I drank them all straight from the bottle so I can't tell you what they look like or give you a good description of the aroma.  So, I'm going straight for the flavor.  

India Pale Ale (6.50% ABV) A decent tasting IPA.  Actually, a pretty good middle of the road beer.  Not too hoppy, not too malty.  A good balance of grapefruity bitterness and caramel malts.  A lingering bitter aftertaste. Good mouthfeel; somewhat light with nice carbonation.  Overall: good. 

Pale Ale (5.40% ABV) The sweetness of caramel hops combined with bready grains and the mild bittering of hops.  Actually pretty good. The light mouthfeel and lively carbonation makes this beer very drinkable. A good refreshing beer.  Overall: good.

Amber Ale (5.70% ABV) Malty and relatively sweet. But I couldn't get past the metallic taste, so that ruined it for me right off the bat.  I didn't like it. Overall: blah

German Lager (5.50% ABV) A decent pilsner style beer.  A good representation of the style.  Light, mildly bitter, goes down easy and very drinkable.

For all of the beers, I'd say they're a bargain for the money.  They're not fantastic craft beer, but they're not bad either.  For the money, they are spot on or better.  

These are way better than macro brews in the same or higher price bracket.

I'm not a beer snob.  There's a time and place for almost every beer. Sometimes money is something to be considered.  I wouldn't be ashamed to serve Kirkland beer at gathering.  


And since my buddy was kind enough to give me a cigar, I'll review that, as well.  In fact, he's been saving this particular cigar just for me.  

My Uzi Weighs a Ton made by Drew Estate is a 60-gauge cigar. Nicaraguan leaf filler with a Connecticut wrapper.

This is a big cigar.  Bigger than I usually smoke when I puff the occasional cigar.  I was thinking it was going to be harsh.

I was pleasantly surprised.  This is a remarkably mild smoke.  The wrapper has a spicy flavor and adds nice character.  

The tobacco is packed tight.  It's got an easy draw and an even burn.  The ash is nice and dense.  

I'm no cigar expert but this was a pleasant tasting cigar with a nice long smoke. I liked it.  Thanks, James!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cocoa and coffee infused imperial stout

Hubby bought me a French press coffee maker. As much as we both enjoy good coffee, he had something entirely different in mind when he bought me this coffee pot. 

The plan for the press was to use it to infuse beer. 

Imagine the unlimited possibilities! So many ingredients and flavor combinations to experiment with. 

I could be like a beerifically mad scientist infusing different taste variations into almost any beer making into something new and wonderful. Breathing new life into any beer I want. It's alive! It's alive! Well, something like that, anyway. 

For my first experiment I wanted to used a beer that was of average taste and complexity for it style. I decided on Saranac Imperial Stout. The ingredients I chose to infuse it with were dark roasted ground cocoa nibs and fresh ground Vermont Maple Nut coffee. 

Not only was this the first time for me infusing beer but also the first time using a French press. Both procedures are simple. The results, impressive. 

This is what I did for my first experiment:

Pour one teaspoon cocoa nibs and one teaspoon of coffee into the pot. Top that with a 12 ounce bottle of beer. Gently stir to release the grounds trapped in the foam so that they will fall into the beer. Let the cocoa and coffee rest in the beer for 3 minutes.  Finally, press the filter down slowly and pour into a glass. 

The results were remarkable. An ordinary imperial stout was transformed into something quite special. The bitter cocoa and flavored coffee imparted intense aroma and exquisite flavor that enhanced the beer without overpowering it. Three minutes from average to special. 

Pretty neat. And fun. The experiments will continue. Bwahahaha!

Note:  I use Choffee brand ground cocoa  nibs.  This infusion used IC Dark.  They can be ordered directly from my friend Kat here. Let her know you heard about them from me.  

I get my coffee from Fasig's.  They fresh roast their beans and the flavors are great.  They sell ground coffee but I like the whole beans because they stay fresh longer.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cricket Hill Reserve Ale Russian Imperial Stout

Cricket Hill Brewery.  I can't say I ever heard of them.  I spied a bottle of their Russian Imperial Stout when looking for something else in the beer store.  I noticed that they are a micro brewer in Fairfield, New Jersey.  My husband is from New Jersey and  he loves Russian Imperial Stout.  So, I figured he might like to try something from his homeland.  Obviously, I bought a bottle.

Their motto is fairly cheeky - some of the finest beers ever made on the planet earth.  Hmmm, I'll be the judge of that. Pssst, that's me being cheeky

They're off to a good start because I really like their logo.  It's cute.

Reserve Ale Russian Imperial Stout (10.50% ABV) pours a deep dark brown with ruby highlights.  With a moderate pour it builds a thick rootbeer like head that fizzles to a skim of tiny bubbles.  The complexion of the beer in the glass is dark as night.

The aroma is of cocoa and roasty malts.

The taste is initially dark chocolate, espresso and dark malt.  The is a tease of smokiness hiding in the background.  The sweetness of the malt is balanced by mellow coffee-like bitterness.  As a whole, the flavor is what I would expect from a Russian imperial stout but could be bolder.  The alcohol can be tasted a bit in the finish which is otherwise slightly bitter.

The mouthfeel is smooth and slightly creamy.  The alcohol is warming and pleasant.

A pretty good example of the style. One of the finest beers ever made on the planet earth might be a bit of an overstatement.  But I like it.

 Overall: very good.

Rogue Voodoo Doughnut - Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana Ale

A doughnut flavored beer?  Really?? Yeah, really. 

Mmmm, okay maybe.  But a Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana Ale?  Seriously?  Come on.

Yup.  Rogue Ales did it.  And they did it quite well, actually.  And it's not the first time collaborating with the famed doughnut maker from Portland Oregon - Voodoo Doughnut.  Last year Rogue came out with a Maple Bacon Ale based on a doughnut flavor and it was amazing!  Of course, you really can't go wrong with maple or bacon.  But Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Banana.  Hmmm . . . 

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana Ale (5.30% ABV) pours from the bright pink painted bottle a striking auburn red.  

The aromas is what you would expect.  From a doughnut!  Wow!  Chocolate stands out the most. But it is mouthwatering, just what you would expect a Memphis Mafia doughnut would smell like. But it's beer. And somehow that's simply awesome! (Memphis Mafia - banana chunks and cinnamon covered in a glaze with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips)
The taste is boldly chocolate.  The banana and peanut butter come through in a more subtle way and add an interesting slant on an otherwise chocolatey beer.  Complex, delicious and not as sweet as you might imagine.  The mildly hopped brown ale rounds out the flavors remarkably well.  The finish is clean and leaves a slight sweetness behind to ponder as you contemplate the next sip.

The mouthfeel is smooth with moderate carbonation to back it up.  It's a nice, too drinkable beer.  

This is one of those love it or hate it beers.  Personally, I love it.  It's adventurous and fun and it tastes good too!

I offered to finish my husband's glass.  But he managed to suffer through it, as well.

I ♥ Rogue Ales!

Overall: excellent.  

Porkin' out on a full pint of Half Full Bright Ale

Once again, date night found us at our favorite place for hot wings and cold beer.  Danielle greeted us with a pitcher of cold beer and a pair of frosty mugs and Katalin served us up some spicy wings that were just as saucy as she is.

I would also like to point out that the wings were especially tasty for some reason.  Very saucy, peppery and quite a bite.  YUM!

I'm always happy to see a new craft beer on the board and happier still to see it's a local brewery.  So, of course, I ordered a pint.

Bright Ale (5.20% ABV) is the gateway beer brewed by Stamford, CT brewery Half Full.  It is a pale ale / blonde ale hybrid.

In the glass it is, indeed, a bright ale.  It is a clear, effervescent gold just a hue shy of honey.  There was little head to speak of, just a halo of foam around the edge of the glass.

The aroma was very lemony, somewhat astringent with a hint of soap.

The taste is immediately lemon followed directly by the bitterness of grapefruity hops. The finish was crisp and clean.

The mouthfeel was very light and the beer goes down quite easily.  

My husband thought Bright Ale tasted like lemony disinfectant.

I thought the taste was odd and definitely a little detergent-like; perhaps the combination of lemon and bitter hops.  It was a little off putting but drinkable.  

I'd be interested in what others experienced when they drank Bright Ale.  

Overall: undecided

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cooking with Beer - Beer Brined Grilled Pork Chops

Beer tenderizes the pork chops and adds subtle flavor.  The brine creates a salty sweet taste that perfectly compliments the flavor of the meat.


Beer Brined Grilled Pork Chops

2 Cups Water 
1 12-Ounce Bottle Red Ale
1/4 Cup Kosher Salt 
3 Tablespoons Packed Light Brown Sugar 
2 Tablespoons Dark Molasses 
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Cup Ice Cubes 
6 Thick Center-Cut Bone-In Pork Chops 
Seasoned Salt ( I use Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning)

Combine water, beer, salt, sugar, molasses and honey in large bowl. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Stir in ice. Place pork chops in large resealable plastic bag. Pour beer brine over pork chops; seal bag. Refrigerate 4 hours, turning bag occasionally. 

Preheat grill to a medium high heat.  

Remove pork chops from beer brine.   Sprinkle with seasoned salt.  

Grill pork chops for approximately about 10 minutes per side or until no longer pink inside.

Transfer to a plate, cover with foil and allow to rest for about five minutes before serving.