Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cooking with beer - Drunken Grilled Cheese

Hubby says you can’t mess with comfort food. No offense to my often wise and occasionally mistaken husband, but I beg to differ.

I recently won Tbe Bruery's cooking with beer contest for my Beer Cheese Fondue Macaroni & Cheese. If mac-n-cheese isn't the ultimate comfort food, then I don't know what is. Not only did I mess with it but I won an award for it! So, pfffft to hubby.

The comfort food he didn't want me mucking with was grilled cheese. This from the man who makes me shmear mayonnaise on his grilled cheese sandwiches. Yuck.

Well I finagled the simplest of recipes for one of the best sandwiches ever and came up with something super yummy.

The beer flavor really comes through and compliments the gooey cheesiness.

I used the remnants from a growler of beer I had in the fridge. I don't think it matters what type of beer you use, experiment to get the flavor you want. 

I would only caution you to use a fairly sturdy bread for this recipe. I love a squishy white bread for regular grilled cheese but that won't stand up well to being battered. In fact, it might disintegrate.

Drunken Grilled Cheese

1 Egg
3/4 Cup Beer
1/3 Cup Purpose Flour
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 Tablespoon Butter
6 Slices Bacon, Cooked Crisp
4 Slices Hearty Bread
4 Slices Cheese of your Choice

 In small bowl, combine egg, beer. Beat in  flour and pepper. Whip until well mixed and smooth.  

Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat

Gently dip one side of two slices of bread in the batter and place in the melted butter. Top with one slice of cheese, three slices of bacon, and another slice of cheese. Dip one side of the other two slices of bread in the batter and lay on top of the sandwiches in the pan.

Cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Berkshire Czech Style Pilsner

Sometimes when I'm craving a beer I want something so hoppy it strips the enamel from my teeth. Sometimes I want some thing so malty it's almost chewy.  And, sometimes I want something smooth and silky like a good stout.

Maybe it's the Czechoslovakian blood flowing through my veins, but when I want to kick back and knock back a few, I usually turn towards a crisp pilsner.  When I bought this beer, that's exactly what I had in mind.

Berkshire Czech Style Pilsner (5.5% ABV) pours a bright clear gold with lively carbonation that builds a fluffy white head that leaves behind clumpy lacing.

The aroma is bready malt and herbal hops. Some floral essences waft forth, as well. Enticing and droolworthy.

The taste is malty and biscuit with the tang of citrus and herbal hops. The gentle sweetness is offset nicely by equally gentle bitterness. The flavors are bright, fresh, and balanced. The finish is crisp and clean.

The mouthfeel is light and effervescent making for exceptionally quaffability.

Berkshire Czech Style Pilsner is an excellent example of the style. It's crisp, bright, and tasty. The low alcoholo content makes it sessionable so that drinking a few isn't a few too many.

Overall: very good.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cooking with Beer - Whole Grain Stout & Molasses Bread

I like making fresh homemade bread. If' I'm going to go take the time effort to make it I usually go full bore; grinding my own grain from whole berries. In fact, if I'm going to go through the effort of making bread from scratch then I might as well go the distance and make fresh butter, as well.

I use only the best ingredients, using raw honey and raw sugar. Like I said, if I'm going the distance then I'm going all the way.

This recipe is for an yeast-free sweet bread. It is not considered unleavened due to the addition of baking soda, which is a chemical leavener.

The result is a bread that has a cake like consistence that pairs well with savory soups and stews.

Use your favorite stout in this recipe. The distinct flavors of  a chocolate, coffee, milk or oatmeal while change the characteristics of the bread. Imagine a barrel aged stout! Make it your own.

Whole Grain Stout & Molasses Bread

16 Ounces Stout Beer 
3 Cups Whole Grain Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Grain Rye Flour
1/2 Cup Of Raw Or Clover Honey
1/2 Cup Of Dark Molasses
1 1/2 Tablespoon Of Kosher Salt
4 1/2 Teaspoons Of Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Raw Sugar
1/4 Cup Old Fashioned Oats

Preheat oven to 375° degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the dry ingredients (excluding sugar and oats) in a large bowl and mix well. 

Stir in the beer, honey, and molasses.

Stir until mix well; approximately 2 - 3 minutes.

Butter or grease a large loaf pan. 

Pour the batter into the pan.

Sprinkle the top of the batter with raw sugar and oats.

Bake for 60 – 75 minutes. When the bread is done the top will be golden brown.  It should make a hollow sound when you tap it. 

Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes before turning it out onto a baking rack.

Resist the urge to cut it right away. Let it cool before slicing or it will fall apart. (Trust me, I know this from experience. Sometimes resistance is futile).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas Ale

Winter beers are starting to pop up all over the place. So, there's no need to go on a wild goose chase to find one. (Do you see what I did there?) 

Goose Island Christmas Ale is a perennial favorite. It's been brewed seasonally every year to ring in the holidays. There recipe is never exactly the same. Every year it's a little different; however, a brown ale is the base of the recipe.

Christmas Ale (7.30% ABV), annus 2012, poured a dense reddish brown with a small quickly dissoving head.

The aroma is malts with brown sugar, caramel, and spices wafting about.

The taste is spices, bread, caramel, and other comforting flavors atop a solid malt backbone. There is some pleasant alcohol warming but there is little booziness to speak of. Combined with gentle seasonal spices, the finish is somewhat bitter and nicely offsets the overall sweetness of the brew.

The mouthfeel is mediumish and coating.

Christmas Ale is a tasty winter warmer. A good example of the style with a unique flavor profile.

Overall: good

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cooking with Beer - Beer Brined Green Tomatoes

A friend was cleaning out their garden before the first frost and gave me a big pile of green cherry tomatoes.

I thought pickling them would be a great way to preserve them. I thought pickling them in beer was an even better idea. So, that's what I did.

Cuz everything is better with beer. Right?

This is a recipe for hot water bath canned pickled tomatoes. Alternately, you can stick them in the fridge after adding the brine to avoid the whole canning process but they won't keep as long. Let them sit for a couple weeks before diving in.

For the best results, make sure you start with fresh, blemish free fruit.

Make sure you sanitize your jars and lids to prevent contamination which will ruin all your hard work.  The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle. Or submerge the jars in a large pot (the canner itself) of water and bring it to a boil. Put the lids into the small pot of boiling water for at least several minutes. 

Beer Brined Green Tomatoes

For every quart jar, you will need approximately 1 1/2 pounds of green cherry tomatoes.

1 Cup White Distilled Vinegar 
1 Cup Pale Ale
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
2 Teaspoons Dill Seeds
1 Teaspoon Black Peppercorns
1 Bay Leaf
4 Garlic Cloves, Peeled
1 Teaspoon Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp  Red Pepper Flakes

In a saucepan, bring the vinegar, beer, and kosher salt to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Keep an eye on it because the beer will foam up and over flow if you're not careful.

Wash the cherry tomatoes well in cold water. Slice them in half.

Put the spices into a hot, clean jar. Use the measurements above for each quart jar or divide them equally into two pint jars. 

Pack the jar tightly with the tomato halves.

Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes, covering them completely and leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Poke a chopstick into the jar and move it around to release any trapped air bubbles.

Wipe the rim clean, seal with a lid and band. Tighten the band finger tight. DO NOT over tighten.  

Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for quarts / 10 minutes for pints. (adjust time for altitude as needed).

Remove the jars from the hot water bath and allow to sit undisturbed for at least 24 hours. 

Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it.

Now, store them in a cool, dark place and use them as needed.

The beer brined green tomatoes will be perfectly pickled in about three weeks. 

Use as a sandwich topper or in recipes calling for relish. Or garnish your martini for a unique flavor.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Big Moose Ale

Big Moose Ale is Saranac's take on the winter warmer. They take a different approach using a a pale ale as base. It is malt forward; which is a standard characteristic of the winter seasonal.  What really sets it apart from other beers in this classification is that it is hoppier and lacks the spices normally included in many winter beer recipes.

But that's okay, as long as it tastes good, right? Let's see what this beer is all about.

Big Moose Ale (5.3% ABV) pours a clear amber that approaches red. The head is bright white and airy bright and leaves behind spotty lacing.

The aroma is malty with caramel notes.

The taste is fairly light. Toasted malt and sweet caramel are in evidence. The sweetness is offset by a resinous hop profile. The finish is crisp and mildly bitter

The mouth feel is light and effervescent. Very drinkable and sessionable.

Big Moose Ale is smooth drinking beer with good but low-key flavor. It's not bad but not great either.

Overall: good.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cooking with beer - Gooey Beer Fudge

The holidays are a time for making merry and indulging in special treats. My mom always made homemade fudge for the holidays.

What's better than ooey, gooey, chewy fudge? Ooey, gooey, chewy fudge made with beer! Duh!

Made with a sweet malty winter beer like Holiday Ale or Wassail makes ordinary fudge something super special. Sweet and delicious with just a hint of beer flavor.

The perfect sweet indulgance for the beer enthusiast.

Gooey Beer Fudge

12 Ounces Winter Warmer Or Holiday Ale
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
1 14-Ounce Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1-1/2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
1 1/4 Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1 Tablespoons Honey
1/4 Cup Chopped Walnuts

Pour beer and 2 tablespoons of the butter int a large sauce. Stir constantly over medium high heat for about 30 minutes until it becomes syrupy. Lower heat a bit if mixture begins to bubble up.

When the beer is the constence of honey stir in the condensed milk, honey, vanilla and remaining butter. Continue to stir.

Once the butter has melted and the ingredients are well combined, mix in the brown sugar and chocolate chips.  Stir constantly as the chocolate melts.

Continue to stir for about 15 minutes. Do not allow the fudge to come to a boil; decrease heat, as necessary.

Test for doneness by drizzling a little fudge in a cup of ice water. If it forms a soft, pliable ball, then it's done.

You can spread the fudge into a small greased casserole dish or do what I did and spoon one tablespoon of fudge into mini muffin wrappers.  

Sprinkle with the nuts, if desired.

Cover and allow to come to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator to finish setting; allow to sit 4 hours or overnight before diving in.

Friday, November 22, 2013

(203) Lager

Another successful evening out drinking cold beer and hot wings. The food was great, the beer was cold.

By all accounts, a good time was had by all.

We had Jaime modelling the latest Porky's fashion. And Katalin held up the bar in grand style.

Everything was great. There was even a new-to-me beer on tap. However, when I saw who it was brewed by I was less interested, but intrigued nonetheless.

The beer was (203) Lager by Stony Creek. I've never had their beer but I have some issues with the "brewery" itself.

You see they are a contract brewer. Which, in itself, is not problematic to me. What I do take issue with is that they hide it.  Their website makes make it appear as if they brew they're own beer in Branford. When, in fact, their beer is brewed by Hooker. But you need to do a bit of digging to find out that information.

The point is, I don't hate contract brewers.  What I don't like is a 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 brewery's 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 brewer's 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.

All that ranting and raving aside, I was still curious about their beer since I'd never had it before. So I ordered one.

(203) Lager (4.7% ABV) was served in a standard shaker pint.  It was a nice clear amber color with a finger of bright white foam that left next to no lacing behind.

The aroma is light and inoffensive; there is pretty much no smell at all.

The taste is equally light and unremarkable. There's nothing stand-out-ish about this beer.  In fact, it's fairly watery and tasteless from start to finish.

Drinkable? Yes. It goes down easy.

Would I recommend it? No. There's really nothing to it. To me it tastes like an uninspired super light adjunct lager.

Overall: meh

<< The look on his face pretty much sums it up.

If you're thinking I'm just being harsh and/or unfair because they contract out their brewing, nothing could be further from the truth. I'm a huge fan of Evil Twin and Terrapin and Brash and other brewers that contract out all or some of their beers. I simply did not like this beer. If I did I'd be honest enough to say so.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ghost Pigeon

During a recent visit to Prime 16 in Orange I was doing "research" on Connecticut winter beers.  After enjoying - er, researching - a pint of Back East Winterfest I was recognized as Brauista by someone who reads my blog. I thought that was the coolest thing and it was nice to know that people actually read what I write.

The bartender, Kari, noticed I was running low and recommended another Connecticut winter seasonal. She said it was one of her favorites. I was only going to drink one beer but she talked me into another. I ordered a New England Brewing Ghost Pigeon.

Alas my job is never ending. Sometimes it sucks to be me! :D

As I was finishing up, I gave her my credit card to pay my tab and one of my business cards. 

She asked, "Are you the one who wrote the piece on Kyle?"


"That's me!" 


"He's a regular here and told me to read it. I liked it."

"That Kyle, he's funny guy!"

Ghost Pigeon (5.80% ABV) is a porter  brewed by New England Brewing and is served in a 16-oz shaker pint. It is as dark as a moonless night with a dense mocha colored head that leaves behind remarkable lacing.

The aroma was mainly coffee but interestingly boozy considering the low alcohol content. 

The taste was initially coffee and some dark chocolate followed by a pleasant roasty bitterness. The finish was clean with a lingering coffee aftertaste.

The mouthfeel was medium with lots of tingly bubbles. This beer is super smooth and goes down easy.

Ghost Pigeon is a tasty porter that looks as good as it tastes.

Overall: very good


I was sitting at the bar at Prime 16 in Orange doing some "groundwork" for a blog post; sniffing, sipping, observing, taking notes, sipping. It's a difficult job, but somebody's got to do it.

I was minding my own business laboring strenuously at the task at hand. When suddenly, from behind me, I hear a voice. "I'm sorry to interrupt your work (he actually said work), are you Brauista?"

Me, "Huh? Wha?"

I turn to face the man.

"Yes, I am!" **giggle**(^∀^)

He went on to tell me that he reads my blog regularly and how it was nice to meet me.


How flippin' cool is that? I'm famous. Or notorious. Or something.

I have to admit, it is certainly neat to be recognized and it's always great to meet a fellow beer enthusiast!

The subject of my research?

Winterfest (5% ABV) by Back East Brewery served in a 16-oz shaker pint is very dark amber with a small head that leaves behind layers of lacing all the way down to the last sip. Nice!

The aroma is malty with a hint of cocoa.

The taste is roasty malt with a whisper of cocoa. The winning flavor in this beer for me was the cinnamon. It can be tasted from start to finish and perfectly compliments and enhances the subtle sweetness of this beer.

The mouth feel is medium with just the right amount of carbonation. This beer is very drinkable; I knocked back a pint before realizing it had happened. Good thing for the sessionable alcohol content!

Winterfest is, by far, one of my favorite offerings from Back East Brewing. Deep, dark, and delicious!

Overall: very good

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Abita WIP / Dogfish Head American Beauty

If you are a regular reader of my blog then you know that once a week hubby and I have a date night usually consisting of hot wings and cold beer. If you're new to my blog, well,  then now you know.

Porky's Cafe in Shelton, CT is like our Cheers. We don't get Norm'd but, without having to say a word, we promptly get served a pitcher of cold beer and a pair of frosty mugs followed shortly by a heaping plate of saucy hot wings.

As per tradition, the pitcher is always some macro light beer; usually Coors Light or Bud Lite. Scoff, if you will, but I'm no beer snob and I like cheap cold beer with my hot wings. It is what it is.

That being said, I look forward to seeing what's on their rotating tap. It is often a micro beer I haven't had before and that is my dessert.

I was thrilled this week to discover that they had installed a second set of taps! Oh my sweet lord! So this past week I got to try two new to me craft brews! Score!

WIP (7% ABV) by Abita is a Wheat India Pale Ale. Think hopped up hefeweizen.

It was served in a Samuel Adams pint. It was a hazy honey color with a finger of white foam that diminished but retained throughout.

The aroma was clearly wheat with hints of banana and a sharp tang of citrus hops.

The taste was primarily wheat with some banana, clove, bubblegum accompanied by a mildly bitter citrus bite. The finish was slightly bitter combined with some lingering sweetness.

The mouth feel is light and smooth.

Abita WIP is tasty and drinkable but nothing special.

Overall: good

American Beauty (9.00% ABV) by Dogfish Head is an American pale ale. Inspired by the Grateful Dead it was brewed with - get this - granola. I was never a fan of the Grateful Dead but I'm a HUGE fan of this beer!

It was served in a Samuel Adams pint. It was a clear amber bordering on red with a frothy floof of white glass grabbing foam.

The aroma was droolworthy.  The aroma is malty and you can really smell the granola. There is some hoppiness wafting about in the aroma, as well.

The taste is mostly sweet offset by some bitterness. A solid malt backbone with honey and granola clearly discernible. More subtle flavors of grain and nuts come through, as well. The hops are gentle and barely make an appearance.  There is mild alcohol warming but nothing too distracting.

The mouthfeel is creamy and smooth with low but lively carbonation.

Dogfish Head American Beauty flippin' ROCKS! Get some!

Overall: excellent

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wassail Ale

As the cold sets in and the snowflakes fly, my thoughts turn to winter warmers; beer that is always big on sweet malts, sometimes spiced, and often emboldened by alcohol warmth.

Wassail Ale by Woodstock Inn Brewery fills that bill. It is a malt forward brew with a hefty 8% ABV.

It pours a deep rich mahogany bordering on red with a smallish head the diminishes to a halo of foam clinging to the edge of the glass.

The aroma is malty with subtle hops and spiciness.

The taste is gently sweet with malt and molasses and dark fruits dominating the palate. A touch of hops compliment and counterbalance the sweetness. The alcohol is impressively well concealed. The finish is slightly bitter with lingering malt.

The mouth feel is coating and nearly heavy.

Wassail is a good example of a winter warmer with its sweet, flavorful and comforting flavors that conjure images of a cold evening spent cozied up in a snugly blanket by a raging fire enjoying a fine brew.

Overall: very good

Note: The brewer indicates that, although this is a winter warmer, there are no spices added to this beer. Irregardless, there is some spiciness - perhaps imparted by the hops - that I detected when drinking this yummy brew.