Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Opa-Opa IPA

There may be nothing as fun as shooting a round of sporting clays on a great course on a beautiful day.  If you're not familiar with sporting clays, think of it as golfing with a shotgun; except that your shooting at clay pigeons flying through the air or rolling across the ground instead hitting balls with a club.  It's the same level of violence with a heck of a lot more noise.  And way more fun, in my ever so humble opinion.

If there's nothing as fun as shooting sporting clays then there's nothing is better than kicking back with an ice cold beer with good friends after a day of shooting sporting clays.

What's better than that? Getting to try a new beer on top of all that.  Yep, that's some awesomeness right there!

It's neat how things turn out sometimes. The new beer I was drinking was a cowboy themed beer. It was very fitting.

The beer was Opa-Opa IPA brewed by Opa Opa Steakhouse and Brewery.    

I drank Opa-Opa (6.00% ABV) straight from the bottle relaxing around a cooler full of iced brews with my shooting buddies.  The point is, I don't know what it looked like. 

The aroma was mildly hoppy, a little fruity and malty.

The mellow aroma belied the hoppy bite I experienced with the first sip.  The mostly citrus hops were complimented nicely by a solid malt backboned.  Bitter hops dominated the palate but there was a bit of yeasty bread and fruit, as well.  The finish was crisp and dry with residual bitterness.  

Straight from the bottle, the mouthfeel was light with loads of carbonation. 

I thought this was a pretty tasty and refreshing beer.  Especially, fresh out of the ice.  Not the best IPA ever but not too shabby either.  I liked it.

Overall: good

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Femme Fatale Blanc

The other day I kicked back to enjoy a frosty cold brew by Evil Twin.

I was like, "Mmmm, this smells wonderful." Then I tasted it and was like, "Wow, this is a good beer!"

Hubby was like, "I thought you hated contract brewers."


No, I don't hate contract brewers.  What I don't like is brewer who promote the illusion of having an established brewery and producing their own beer. Making no mention of contracting out their brewing nor of the brewery who is doing the work.  Meanwhile, another brewery is making their beer and slapping the other brewers label on the bottle.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't have respect for that.

Yes, I know that the contractor uses the other brewers recipe.  And, if they are reputable, will respect the recipe and follow it to the letter.  I also know that not all breweries who produce contract beers are so dutiful. And, for that, I have even more disdain.

It's even worse for when I don't even like the beer the contractor makes under their own name.

What I don't have problem with is a brewer - notice I didn't say brewery - like Evil Twin.  Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is a globe trotting brewer who goes from brewery to brewery creating master works of beer.  There is no pretense or bait-and-switch.  He clearly states on his website that his beer is manufactured in many different breweries around the world. And it states on the label where the beer is produced and bottled. That is something I can appreciate.

So, no.  I do not hate contract brewers.  What I don't like is being misled and deceived.

Femme Fatale Blanc (6.00% ABV) is an IPA by Evil Twin is brewed at Westbrook Brewing.

It pours a dense honey color with a big floofy white head that leaves behind loose but lingering lacing on the glass.

The aroma is simply marvelous.  Sweet citrus and juicy fruits contrasting with sharp resin, bread and spices.

The taste is just as good. Bright but not overly bitter citrus complimented nicely with other fruits, sweet grains, clove and yeast.  There's a lovely chardonnay like quality that is wonderful.  There's also an underlayer of dank hops that I don't typically enjoy but, because it doesn't dominated the flavor profile, it works well in this beer.  The finish is clean and leaves behind a lingering bite of hops.

The mouth feel is medium with lively carbonation.

Femme Fatale Blanc is easy drinking, delicious.  There's a lot going on in this beer and  it's fantastic!

Overall: excellent!

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Antonia

My Ántonia is one book of a trilogy written by Willa Casher in the early 20th century. (Also included in the series are O Pioneers! and The Song of the Lark).

The story follows the life of Ántonia through the eyes of Jim Burden who has a strong emotional attraction to her.

The book is considered one of the great American classics.  If you're interested in reading My Ántonia (or the trilogy), it is free in digital format via Project Gutenberg (available for free Kindle download on Amazon).

My Antonia (7.50% ABV), the beer, is brewed by Dogfish Head.  It is a hopped pilser that started out as a collaboration beer with Birra del Borgo but is now a standard Dogfish Head offering.

My Antonia (7.50% ABV) pours a barely hazy gold with a glimmer of reddish highlights.  It is capped by a solid head that dissipates slowly that leaves decent lacing for the style.

The aroma is complex with citrus and floral notes complimented by grassy undertones.  A very pleasing smell.

The taste is dry and refreshing with an impressive amount of citrus and a mellow hoppy bite. There is a nice "green" taste that correlates nicely to the prairie theme of My Ántonia (the book).  The pale malts add a touch of sweetness and toasty biscuit.  The alcohol is impressively well concealed.  The finish is crisp and somewhat bitter.

The mouthfeel is light with nice carbonation.  My Antonia is an exceptionally quaffable brew. Just be careful of the high alcohol content.

My Antonia is a great beer.  There are a whole lot of wonderful bright, earthy, homey flavors that work very well together in this amazing pilsner.

Overall: excellent

Friday, July 26, 2013

Smoking hops?

You might be surprised to know that hops are related to cannabis (AKA marijuana).

I've read that you can smoke hops for medicinal purposes. Not to get high because hops do not contain THC. But the female flower of the hop plant contains lupulin which is known to have sedative, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia properties.

I have not tried this but it would be an interesting experiment.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I love Firkin Thursday!

Every other Thursday Two Roads Brewery offers up a firkin of one of their regular beers casked with something special.

I invited my friend, Trixie, to join me this week.  Trixie is not her real name, I changed her name to protect the innocent. Not her innocence.  She's hardly innocent!

Anyhoo, Trixie is a fellow beer apprecionado (yeah, I just made that up).  I asked her to join me and my husband for Firkin Thursday.  She's not an expert on beer, but she does like to drink it. Any friend of beer is a friend of mine!

Since I'm a regular visitor to the brewery, she asked what she should get.  I told her to get the firkin.  Since she was heading up to the she offered to get us a beer.  I still had a full glass but hubby was running on empty so he asked her to get him a hefeweizen.

I went to the bar with her.  Ryan asked what he could get for her.  Trixie said, "I'd like a fahrvergnügen and a Haffenreffer."

Ryan was like, "Fahrverg . . . huh? Wha?"

"She does not want haffenreffer!  Or a Volkswagen for that matter.  She'd like a glass from the firkin and a hefeweizen", I translated.

Ryan scratched his beard in confusion but managed a couple of excellent pours.

This Thursday featured a firkin of Little Heaven pale ale dry-hopped with delta hops.  Delta hops are a relatively new variety that has a mild aroma and is slightly spicy with a hint of citrus.

Little Heaven is a pretty bitter beer, so I was very curious to see what dry hopping it would do to change the character of the beer.

It was very interesting.  The Delta hops actually seemed to tame some of the bitterness and smooth it out a bit.  It was still bitter but not with an in-your-face bite.  And the taste of the Little Heaven was changed subtly but distinctly.  It was quite tasty and drinkable (I had three).  I liked it!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cooking with Beer - Spicy Sweet And Sour Brown Ale Pickles

My hopped up IPA pickles were a big hit (see recipe).  That left me wanting experiment with a different style of pickle utilizing a different style of beer.  

I thought that a brown ale would go will in a sweet and sour pickle recipe because if the mild sweetness of the beer.  And, of course, I had to throw hot peppers into the mix.  Why not, right?

These pickles are gently sweet and a little tart with just the right bite of spicy goodness.  

I used Six Point Brownstone Ale, but you can use any brown ale you like.  

Spicy Sweet And Sour Brown Ale Pickles
Refrigerator Pickles

Makes 4 Quarts 

20-24 Small Pickling Cucumbers
1 Small Onion, Sliced Thin
2 Stalks Celery, Cut In Half
4 Hot Peppers, Halved
4 Cups Raw Sugar
1/2 Cup Pickling Salt
1 Quart Vinegar
1 16-ounce Can Sixpoint Brownstone Ale

Cut off the ends of cucumbers.  This is important because there are enzymes in the ends that will soften the pickles . . . i.e. less crispy. 

Cut the cucumbers into quarters, make sure they’re short enough to fit in quart mason jars without sticking up too high.  Pack the cucumbers into the jars.  (Note: I used a half gallon canning jar with swing top and gasket)

Add 2-3 onion slices, half a celery stalk and one hot pepper to each jar.

In a large saucepan, dissolve sugar and salt in vinegar and beer.  Bring to just boiling.  Be careful the syrup doesn't boil over.

Using a ladle, pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers leaving about a 1/4 inch of headspace.

Screw the lid tops on and allow the jars to cool on the countertop.

Put the jars in the fridge and allow the pickles to absorb all the wonderful spices.

After about a week open the jar, take a bite and be completely impressed with your awesome pickling skills! The longer they sit the better they will get. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Brooklyn Brown Ale

Admittedly, brown Ale is not my favorite style of beer.  And beer from Brooklyn - the place not the brewery (read about it here) - are even less desirable to my palate.

But here's the bottle so I must drink it.  It's like some kind of moral imperative!

Brooklyn Brown Ale (5.60% ABV) pours a rich reddish brown with a small head the diminishes rather quickly.

The aroma is nutty, malty and mildly hoppy.

The taste starts out with roasted malt, hazelnut and a touch of sweet toffee.  A pleasant beginning but then there it is.  That odd off flavor distinctive of beer brewed with the waters of Brooklyn. I don't know what it is, I don't know how to describe it other than blech.

The mouthfeel is medium with nice carbonation.

This is not the best brown ale but it doesn't totally suck.  Maybe it would be better if it wasn't for that undefinable off taste.  I'd probably refuse it if offered to me.

Overall:  okay.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Centennial IPA

What I thought I knew about the origins of India Pale Ale may not be entirely true.  It was my understanding that ale brewed in England destined for the the Indian colonies was made stronger and hoppier so that it would arrive there fresh.

I recently read that that's what happened but it wasn't completely intentional.

There was a brewery that was located near the docks where merchant ships that traveled between England and India.  The brewery was called the Bow Brewery and was owned by George Hodgson.  This brewery was close to where the merchant ships tied up, so it was convenient for the seamen to stock up on the beer from this brewery since it was so close.

The brewery brewed up a batch of  October stock ale - an old style high alcohol, dark bitter beer that was normally aged at the brewery for a period of time - that was casked for the voyage to India.

During the voyage the boat the beer was loaded on got tossed about in rough seas which had a peculiar impact on the beer - creating the effects of aging without the necessity of time.

The beer arrived in peak condition and perfectly quaffable and became a huge hit!

According to this version of history, the creation of India Pale Ale was accidental.  But the colonists loved it and it eventually gained popularity in England, as well.

Centennial IPA (7.20% ABV) pours a hazy amber with very little head that leaves behind a lingering film floating on top of the beer.

The aroma is a blast of hoppy goodness - loads of citrus, some tropical juicy fruits and resin. Mouth watering!

The taste is just as awesome. A bold hop presence layered on top of a solid malt backbone.  Bitter citrus hops dominate but hops are evident.  Roasty malt balance out the bitterness quite nicely.  The finish is slick and mostly bitter.

The mouthfeel is medium with lots of bubbly carbonation.  This is an easy drinking beer despite the high alcohol content.

This is a great example of the style.  Tasty, smooth and quite drinkable.
Overall: very good!

Sunday, July 21, 2013


I recently found out that's many breeds of dogs are allergic to hops.  How sad for them!  I'd be one sad puppy if I couldn't have my hops!

But, seriously, dogs are allergic as in they could die allergic.  If a dog consumes hops they could enter a state called malignant hyperthermia.  That is condition that causes they're body temperature to rise uncontrollably. Symptoms include: restlessness, panting, vomiting, abdominal pain, seizures, rapid heart rate, and high temperature. The first best treatment is to cool the dog down and get them to a vet immediately.

Alcohol isn't particularly good for our furry pals either.  Being smaller than the average human, even a small amount can be toxic. Some dogs have reportedly become alcoholics, but it would be a bad, bad dog mommy/daddy that would let they're dog-child consume alcohol in such a volume to create an addiction.

Some dogs do have a taste for beer, though.

Luckily for them there are several brewers of  beer just for dogs!  It's true!  It's non-alcoholic, non-carbonated and meat flavored.

There's Bowser Beer that is made with USDA beef or chicken, malt barly and glucosamine.  They recommend serving it straight out of the bottle, poured over dry kibble, or over crushed ice.

That sounds great!  Except maybe for the dry kibble part.

There's also Lucky Dog and  Kwispelbier.  There may be more but, since I don't actually have a dog, I have no need to buy it.  Unless maybe to trick my husband into drinking it.  He can be a bit of a dog sometimes.

Aww . . . I wouldn't do that to him!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mrs. Stoutfire

Mrs. Stoutfire is a collaboration between The Bruery and Beachwood Brewing

When I heard the name, my mind conjured a disturbing image of Robin Williams dressed in drag. Thankfully, actually consuming the beer alleviates any discomfort and/or anxiety this imagery evokes.

Mrs. Stoutfire was inspired by the barbecue served at Beachwood Brewing's restaurant.  The malts for the beer are smoked in the same smoker using the same wood - apple, white oak, and pecan wood - used for smoking Beachwood's meat.

If that's not enough, they also age the beer with the same mixture of woods.

The process imparts the flavors of the wood into the beer, creating a unique brew.

Mrs Stoutfire (9.5% ABV) pours a deep dark brown with ruby highlights.  It builds a big, mocha colored head that hangs around for quite a while.

The aroma is malty with hints of dark chocolate and plenty of smoky goodness.

There is a big coffee flavor up front with a good dose of bitter chocolate and roasty malt.  The smoke is infused throughout.  The finish is mildly bitter with lingering smokiness.  There is a definite alcohol presence that can be both tasted and felt but not in a distracting sort of way.

The mouthfeel is pretty full making for a smooth, creamy beer. 

Overall: very good.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


Wings and beer night was successful in that the wings were hot and spicy and the beer cold and refreshing.   That's good, because that's what wings and beer night is all about, right?

And then things turned ugly.  Not ugly so much as yucky.

I should've been prepared.  I knew it was coming.  

It all started when we walked into the bar and we spied the specials board where cheerfully chalked was:  Beat the heat! Chill out with a Straw-ber-ita or a Bud Lime!

As much a fan of margaritas as he is of beer, Hubby said, "I may have to try a Straw-ber-ita."

I was like, "Uhm, yeah.  You do that."
So after we had our yummy wings and drank our pitcher of beer I asked, "Are you really going to get one of those Straw-ber-ita things?"

He said, "I will if you share it with me."

"But if I drink it then I have to review it."  And then I remembered that friend and fellow blogger Pints and Panels just that same day reviewed Bud Lime.  So, I thought to myself, "If P&P can blog about Bud Lime then I guess I can write about it's pinker, berrier sister beverage (I shudder to call it beer)."

I snagged the beermaid as she bopped by and asked her to bring us a Straw-ber-ita.  She made a Mr. Yuck face and asked with incredulity, "You really want to drink one of those?"

I said, "No, not really, but bring it on!"  

She brought us the big 16-ounce can and two glasses filled with ice garnished with a wedge of lime.

STRAW-BER-RITA (8% ABV) is a malt beverage with natural flavors, artificial sweetener and artificial color.  That should tell you something, hmm?

It pours a bright cherry Kool-Aid pink and smells like fruit punch with a dollop of strawberry syrup mixed in.

The taste?  Well, the expression on my face should be some indication.  It tastes like drunken pixie sticks on glue. Maybe with an unhealthy dose of cough medicine stirred in for good measure.

Yep, it's that good.

When the beermaid stopped by to check on us, she asked how it was.  I made the same Mr. Yuck face she made.  She got the point.

I'm pretty sure she didn't charge us for that alcoholic travesty. That's a good thing.  Because I wouldn't want to pay for it.  


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

19 Original Colonies Mead

Mead is the bees knees!  Like craft beer, craft mead is emerging in the main stream marketplace.  And like craft beer, mazers are coming up with their own individual styles.  They're creating something new and fresh from a beverage that is thousands of years old.  And that's awesome!

My first taste of mead was at Willimantic Brewing Company when they had Redstone Black Raspberry Nectar on guest tap.  I was smitten!  It is lightly effervescent, pleasantly sweet, and absolutely delicious.

Then I discovered Sap House Meadery while vacationing in New Hampshire. Their unique spin on traditional mead is remarkable. Their mead varieties are rich and tasty.  Each has a different flavor profile and a varied degree of sweetness.

But no mead I've ever tasted is anything like Rogue Farms (Rogue Ales) 19 Original Colonies Mead. That's not a bad thing. It's different and wonderful!

Maybe the coolest thing about Rogue's mead is that the honey comes from their own honey bees.  These bees  flit about sampling all kinds of yummy goodness on Rogue Farms, including the seven varieties of hops Rogue grows. Those have got to be some awesomely happy bees!

I would love to flit around sampling hops.  Bzzzzz.  ~(,)~

19 Original Colonies Mead (5.2% ABV) pours a clear deep golden color.

The aroma is ripe with the scents of sweet honey, warm jasmine and wild flowers.

The flavor was surprising.  It was crisp and dry with Pinot Grigio taste characteristics.  Jasmine and honey characteristics are clearly discernible  but it's not at all sweet like I was expecting; both from the smell and prior experience.  It is light and refreshing and luscious!

What sets 19 Original Colonies Mead apart from the other mead I've had previously is its dryer wine-like quality.  I like it.  A lot!

I like them all. A lot!

That's what I love about craft beer - and craft mead - there are so many different tastes and varieties.  There's something for every palate, mood, and setting.  


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Provider Pale Ale

It was September 2008 when I first discovered the People's Pint.  My husband and I were doing a pub crawl with friends and fellow beer lovers from Chicago and the People's Pint brewpub was one of our stops.  

We hit pubs from Connecticut to Vermont that day - People's Pint, Long Trail, McNeill's Brewery and Willimantic Brewing - and had a great time and drank some yummy beer along the way.

Then recently, hubby and I were headed home from New Hampshire and stopped at Ryan & Casey Liquor Store.  We had heard they had a great selection of craft beer.  We weren't disappointed.

Imagine my excitement when I spied bombers of People's Pint beer in the cooler!  We didn't have a lot of room for cold stuff, but we made room for just one more bottle.

Provider Pale Ale was on tap fresh from the brewery that clear September day so long ago. I don't remember if that's what I had but that's what I got from Ryan & Casey.

Provider Pale Ale (5.2% ABV) pours a bright amber with a bright white head that quickly diminishes leaving a fine layer of foam behind.

The aroma is mild but, if you take a good snort, both sweet malts and tangy hops are discernible.

The taste isn't so subtle. It's bold and delicious! 

The taste is big and malty with some wonderful breadyness hiding in the background.  Citrus hops come forward in the middle creating a fine balance. The finish is crisp and pleasantly bitter.  

The mouthfeel is mediumish with gently carbonation.  A smooth and drinkable pale ale!

Provider Pale Ale beer has great flavor and character. It begs you to keep on drinking.  I complied.  And even managed to swindle my husband out of half his share.  I'm devious like that.

Overall: very good!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cooking with Beer - Beer Braised Pork Loin

Peter Brady succinctly expressed it with the shrug of his shoulders and upper lip curled against his teeth when uttered in a Humphrey Bogartish voice, "Porkchopsh and appleshauce." 

Somehow the combination of succulent pork and sweet juicy apples are perfect together.  

Pair that with a spiced Autumn ale and you got yourself a little slice of heaven right there!

Beer Braised Pork Loin

1 Tablespoon Bacon Fat
1 Pork Loin Roast, About 5 Pounds
3 Cups Chopped Sweet Onion
2 Granny Smith Apples, Peeled and Diced
1 Tablespoon Spicy Guinness Mustard
12 Ounces Woodstock Autumn Ale
3 Teaspoons Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning
1 Bay Leaf

Rub pork loin all over with Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning.  Brown pork loin roast in hot fat in a large Dutch oven or roasting pan.  

Sauté onions until they start to brown.  Add apples and continue to sauté until softened.  Stir in mustard.  

Return pork to pan or Dutch oven and pour beer over top.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake at 350° for 2 hours, or until pork is tender. 

Place pork loin on a serving platter and keep warm.

Place liquid with vegetables into a blender; cover and process at low speed until smooth. Or, press through sieve or process in food processor in batches.

Pour sauce into a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Slice pork and serve with sauce ladled over top.