Thursday, February 28, 2013

Honeyspot Road on tap

Last night I was out for hot wings and cold beer with hubby.  Imagine my excitement when I spied my favorite Two Roads brew on tap - Honeyspot Road White IPA. 

Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy!

I've enjoyed a few pints at the brewery (click here to read review) and I was looking forward to trying it in the wild.  

I was taken aback at how different it tasted on tap at the bar compared to how it tasted straight from the brewery.

When I had Honeyspot Road at the brewery it was more IPAish than wheat.  However, the reverse was true when I had it last night.  It clearly had a much bolder wheat profile.  I have to say I liked it much better before when the wheat was more subdued and the beer had a hoppier bite.

So, what's going on here?  Is the brewmaster still tweaking the recipe?  If so, stop!  You had it right before!  It was perfect!


That is all.

Everyone Loves Big Cans

I'm still basking in the after glow of my recent visit to Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery - the food, the beer, the tour, meeting Scottie.  No offense to Scottie, but especially the beer.

While sitting around glowing, Moat Mountain memories dancing around my head and whatnot, I recalled an incident that happened just over one year ago. That's right!  A Moat Mountain incident!  Of nearly epic proportions.  At least it seemed that way at the time.  Fear not, I've recovered fully.

This is what happened:

I was busting into the last can of Iron Mike's that I'd procured from the Smokehouse during my last visit. I'd secreted it away but couldn't hold out any longer to taste the pale ale goodness.  

The can was frosty cold, dripping with condensation.  I was fairly drooling in anticipation; not a pretty sight but true.  I popped the tab.  No whoosh of escaping gasses. 

Huh, what's up with that?  I thought as I wiped a dribble of saliva from my chin. 

I grabbed a glass that I had chilling in the freezer in preparation for this very moment.

I poured.  What's this?  I rubbed my eyes to be sure I wasn't hallucinating. What sluiced from the can was not the honey amber colored liquid I was so eagerly expecting.  Nay, it was clear, colorless. 

Wait . . . what??

Now that is what you call a pale ale.  I thought to myself.

Uh, hello!? How could I joke at a time like this!  

I sniffed the glass.  Nothing. No sweet malty aroma.  No sharp tang of hops. Not a flippin' thing!

What's this?  Something was very very wrong.

My precious Iron Mike's Pale Ale was nothing but water.  How could this be? 

A couple weeks later, we were seated at a table at Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery enjoying a couple beers.  When suddenly, from out of no where, two cans of Iron Mike's miraculously appeared on our table.   Okay, it didn't happen quite like that.  What really happened was the bartender stopped by our table with the two cans in apology for my traumatizing experience.

Hmmm, how did he know we were there?

Whatever.  I had my beer and that's all that really matters in the end.  All's well that end's well.


For more information, check out Moat Mountain's website or visit them on Facebook

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Two Roads on tap at my favorite hang out!

Moat Mountain treats me like a cele-beer-ty

Traditionally, when we're heading home from a visit to the North Conway area in the gorgeous White Mountains region of New Hampshire, we stop by Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery to fill up our growlers and grab some bombers to carry us through to our next trip to the White Mountains.

This trip was no exception.  We walked through the front door and were greeted by the host as such . . .

Or something like that.  Mind you, we're there a few times a year, but it's not like we're really regulars.  But I DO post loads of photos and blog about their beer.  Still, I find it amusing that they remember us.

We enjoyed a fabulous lunch of hush puppies with maple syrup, cheddar burger topped with BBQ pulled pork, BBQ brisket on Texas Toast and big, honkin' 20-ounce glasses of Violet B's Blueberry.

Upon finishing our meal we asked for the growler refills and a few bombers of Russian Imperial Stout. **sigh** Time to head home.

Suddenly Bill, the operations manager/business development manager/marketing madness manager, appeared at our table and asked if we'd like the "5-minute" tour of the brewery.  

Well, DUH! 

Hmmm, I wonder how he knew we were there?

Then he introduced us the the head brewer, Scottie, who lead us past the bar, through the kitchen, down a flight of stairs and  into the brewery located in a subterranean lair beneath the restaurant.

I've done a lot a brewery tours and I can safely say that I've never ever seen a brewery like this one.  

The number of tanks crammed into such a small space is a testament to incredible spacial conceptualism and sheer determination.  The volume of beer they produce from a seven barrel brewing system is nothing short of amazing.  They not only provide for the pub up above, but Moat Mountain also distributes their brews to other restaurants and beer retailers.  

Scottie must be some sort of freakish beer batch scheduling savant!  He also makes some wicked good beer!

The good news is, soon they will be expanding their operations and will be able to triple their brewing capacity.  The tanks seen scattered about the restaurant grounds will be used in the new brewery that will be down the road a piece.

Cheers to Moat Mountain.  Thanks to Bill for arranging the tour.  And thanks to Scottie for spending so much time talking with us and showing us around.  I love you guys! (I really do!)

For more information, check out Moat Mountain's website or visit them on Facebook

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beer Bacon Soap

Why would I bother to make my own soap when it's fairly cheap to buy?  Self satisfaction?  Yeah, there is the whole "Hey!  Look what I did! I made that!" thing.   But that's not the only reason. Homemade soap is excellent on so many levels.  The satisfaction of making your own soap is one.  

The luxury and benefits of homemade soap is far better for your skin than commercial soaps.  Homemade soap is loaded with natural glycerin.  Glycerin is removed from commercial soaps and sold separately at a premium for its outstanding moisturizing properties.  Not only is homemade soap excellent for your skin but it cleans well, too.  And, with the omission of scents it's great for anyone with allergies.

You make soap out of pretty much any kind of fat or oil.  I make bacon fairly often for breakfast and it's pretty much a waste to throw away the by-product when it can be so useful.  I pour the fat off into a container until I have enough to make a batch of soap.  The recipe that follows uses one quart of bacon fat.

You can also use just about any liquid whether it be beer, tea, water, coffee.  Whatever strikes your fancy.

To answer the big question . . . soap made from bacon fat or beer does NOT smell like bacon or beer.  All the baconny / beerific smell is neutralized during the saponification process.

So, let's make some soap.

Beer Bacon Soap

16 Ounces Bacon Fat
2.3 Ounces Lye
7 Ounces Ice Cold or Part Frozen Flat Beer
1 -2 Ounces Essential Oils (optional)

Remember that when you’re making your own soap that you should have a dedicated set of equipment set aside just for this process.

This recipe is for a cold process soap.  The basic tools required are:

A Large Pot . . . Enamel or cast iron do very well for this.  No aluminum or galvanized!
A Large Wooden or Plastic Spoon
A Hand Mixer (Optional)
A Large Baking Pan or Shallow Cardboard Box
Rubber Gloves / Eye Protection

Note that Lye is extremely corrosive and will cause severe burns on contact.  So make sure to wear gloves and eye protection! 

Put the ice cold FLAT beer 1 to 2 quart container.  Glass or plastic works best.

Using the stirring spoon (known to soap makers as the "crutch"), pour lye slowly into the beer,  stirring until the lye is all dissolved. Remember that lye is very caustic and will burn your skin and eyes! Any splatters must be washed off immediately with lots of water!

Cover the solution to keep out air and allow to cool (or warm up) to about 85 degrees F.  No need to apply heat – heat will be chemically produced when the lye comes in contact with the liquid.

Melt the fat in the 4-6 quart bowl or pot. Don't use aluminum or galvanized bowls!  When the fat is melted, cool it down to 95 degrees F. Prepare the box with a plastic trash bag lining, so the fresh liquid soap can't leak out.  Note that I am using a shotgun shell four-pack box.  This is the perfect size for this recipe to create a nice thickness for the soap.  You can also use soap molds or any other suitable container.

When all is ready, begin to stir the liquid fat in a circular direction while pouring the lye water into it in a thin steam (pencil size or thinner) until it is all added. Crutch (stir) the mix vigorously, using “S” pattern or use a hand blender alternating with a circular pattern until the mix begins to cool and thicken.  At this point do NOT stop or the mix may separate!

First the soap will be murky, then creamy, then like heavy cream and finally, like hot cooked pudding and will show traces when you dribble a stream from the crutch onto the surface. This process can take from 10 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on the temperature, weather and purity of your ingredients. Stir vigorously but patiently! With hand blender stir time is cut to 1/10 of the regular time.

I've found that using my old Kitchen-aid Classic is the perfect tool for stirring my batches of soap.  Although I am constantly monitoring the mixing process, the stand mixer lets me be a little more hands off and I can be doing other things around the kitchen while the soap is mixing and cooling.

When your "trace" does not sink back into the surface, add an ounce or two of whatever essential oils you may want for aroma.

The soap is now ready to pour into the lined box or mold. Wear rubber gloves and treat the raw soap like you treated the lye water. Wash off all splatters immediately. Have 10% vinegar and water and a sponge to neutralize splatters.

After 3-5 hours the soap may be cut into bars with a table knife, NOT a sharp knife. Allow the soap to cure in the box for about a week before breaking it up and handling it, and another month before using it.

I can make customized special order soaps on request.  Great for gifts or as a treat for yourself.  Send me an email for further details.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Irish goodness at May Kelly's Cottage

The last day of our long weekend in New Hampshire found me outside enjoying the snow making a snowman and a companion snow kitty.  And, then a drive through the mountains to marvel at the amazing transformation a coating of white fluffy snow can make to already majestic views.  Truly amazing; a wow at every turn.

We ended the afternoon with an early meal and cold, cold brews at May Kelly's Cottage; an authentic Irish pub in the heart of the White Mountains.

Hubby and I pop in to May Kelly's every few months and it always makes me smile when we are greeted by name.  It makes me just as happy to sit down and the bartender pouring the beer she knows we want without having to ask - Smithwicks for me and Guinness for hubby.  I have it on good authority that this is the freshest Irish beer you can get outside of Ireland.  I have to agree, it's really the best tasting Smithwicks and Guinness I've had.

The food at May Kelly's is just as good and fresh and authentic.  

We make a point of going to May Kelly's on Sunday afternoons because there is always live Irish Seisiun.  It's nothing formal, just local musicians that roll in and out, jamming together.   There's usually a core group that we see almost every time we visit, but there are others that show up and play from time to time.   It's always a good time and the music is fantastic.

Visit May Kelly's website and "like" them on Facebook.  Visit them in person if you can!  You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Good times at the Red Parka Pub

After a day of mead tasting at Sap House Meadery and beer sampling at Tuckerman Brewery we ended up at the Red Parka Pub for dinner and, yes, more beer.

It was early but the pub was already bustling.  Nevertheless, we were greeted with a friendly "hello" from Shelley.  

It took a little maneuvering  but I managed to squeeze my way onto a bar stool.  I had to ask some kindly folks to scoot over a seat so my hubby to sit down, too.  

Comfortably seated and all settled in, Shelley served us up some ice cold brews and some saucy, fall-off-the-bone ribs.  The Red Parka has a fantastic menu but their ribs are sooooo good and their steaks are to die for.

The Red Parka also has a great beer list and there is always something new to try on their rotating guest taps.

Vienna Amber Lager by Trapp Family Lodge Brewery (5% ABV).  Yes, this beer is brewed by the Sound of Music von Trapps who just happen to own a lodge in Vermont and brew their own beer.  This brew is a rich golden color with a very malty aroma.  The flavor is as rich as the color with toasty and caramel malts, it's slightly sweet and very tasty.  The maltiness is balanced out by a dry, crisp hoppy finish.  Overall, this is a very good beer.  

Lucky U IPA by Breckenridge Brewery (6.2% ABV) is a bright, clear amber color with a serious hoppy nose.  The flavor is a combination of citrus and piney hops.  The  hoppy bitterness, which is significant, is mellowed out by a rich maltiness.  The finish is a lingering bitterness that is quite pleasant.  Overall, tart and very drinkable.  A great beer for a hophead like me.

Chocolate Stout by Rogue Ales (6% ABV).  Aaah, this was dessert.  Rogue beer on tap, there was no way I wasn't having this.  The chocolate stout is black as black with a mocha colored head.  The predominant flavors are dark bitter chocolate and smoke.  There is a touch of dark roasted coffee and vanilla that adds character and depth.  This is a chocolate beer through and through.  Overall excellent!

There's always something going on at the Red Parka Pub!  Visit their website and "like" them on Facebook

A tour of Tuckerman Brewery

After visiting Sap House Meadery we made a stop at Tuckerman Brewery for samples and a tour.  Well, more for the samples because we'd already done the tour.  Okay, that's not being completely honest either.  We'd done the tour of Tuckerman's before and wanted to see how they've grown and what they're up to these days.

They've definitely expanded their operations since we last visited. Considering their volume, it's amazing how much of their process is done by hand.  

It was snowing like crazy when we arrived and we were greeted at the door by brewery co-founder Kirsten.  I let her know that Ash from Sap House said "hi" (which he asked us to do) and then headed up to the tasting room where there was already a room full of folks sipping the various brews.  

Stumpy, the brewery mascot, was bopping around from person to person; taking no particular interest in anyone.  Rumor has it he's a fan of pizza and since no one was handing out pizza bones he wasn't interested in them.  Then he crashed out on the floor in the middle of everyone.  Funny dog.

The tour is short but informative.  Basically, discussing the brewing process and how Tuckermans brews their beer. The facilities are small so there really isn't a lot to see but the information is great.  The best part is that the tour begins and ends with samples of their yummy beer.

Headwall Alt. (4.75% ABV) is my favorite Tuckerman brew.  It is an altbier brewed true to the German style.  It is brown in color with a fuzzy head.  It's malty, grainy and slightly sweet with a touch of hoppy bitterness.  The lightest of the Tuckerman brews, it is a very drinkable, smooth beer.  It finishes with a nice lingering bitterness that begs for another sip.  Overall very good.

Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) is a clear golden American style pale ale.  Citrus, malt and lightly sweet.  It's crisp and refreshing with a big bite of hops - not IPA big but big for a pale ale.  This pale ale is very drinkable and an overall great beer.

ALTitude (7.5% ABV) is a bigger altbier.  Bigger flavor, bigger alcohol bite.  It is a rich brown with a nice head.  It's bursting with malty goodness followed by a touch of sweetness and a bit of nuttiness.  There is nice hoppy bite in the finish.  It tastes great but ALTitude can be dangerous.  The alcohol can be felt as well as tasted, so take it easy with this bad boy.  Really good though!

I'm glad we stopped by.  The staff is knowledgeable and friendly.  Especially Stumpy.  

Thanks for the tour and the beer.  

Visit Tuckerman Brewery's website for more info or Like them on Facebook.


Sap House Meadery

I saw a post by Sap House Meadery's Facebook page that they had come across several bottles of 2012 seasonal meads and that they also had a few bottles of - like 8 - Oak Aged Traditional available on a first come, first serve basis.

Being in the area for the weekend it was a no-brainer to swing by and say "hi" to Ash and Matt.  And, also, to acquire a couple bottles of the meads that we haven't had before.

The store was very busy and Ash was mead pouring samples left, right and every which way.  I got the opportunity to taste a few meads I hadn't tried before.

The first thing I tasted was something they don't sell.  It was a mixture of their Chocolate and Vanilla Bean meads; a concoction called a "hoodsie".  The vanilla bean is one of my favorites from Sap House and combined with the chocolate was quite a treat.  Delish!

I got another taste of the Peach Maple and Cranberry Sage which I previously had and reviewed (here and here respectively).

I got a taste of the Blackberry Maple (18% ABV).  Oak aged and made with local blackberries, this mead is nice, light and very blackberry-y.  The oak imparts nice character and mellows out the sweetness of the honey and berries.  Not only is this mead is not as sweet as you might expect but, despite the high alcohol content, is smooth and drinkable.

Another mead I tasted, Oak Aged Sugar Maple (13.8% ABV), was poured straight from the barrel.   It wasn't quite ready, so the the honey profile was quite intense.  But even though it was still young the qualities of the oak were coming through quite nicely.  I can't wait to taste this mead once it has had the opportunity to fully mature.  It's going to be something special.

While sipping samples, Ash was talking about mead and Sap House Meadery.  I love visiting because every time I'm there I learn something new.  That and the tastings.  Yes, the tastings are always good. Yum.

Thank you, Ash, for your hospitality.  It's always a pleasure visiting.

Look for Sap House meads in a store near you . . . or order online from their website.

Learn more about Sap House Meadery by visiting their website and keep up to date with Sap House happenings by liking them on Facebook.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hill Billy's for Beer and BBQ

The White Mountains of New Hampshire, specifically the Mount Washington Valley, has something for just about everybody.  Aside from the plethora of amazing outdoor activities there is shopping and good food and craft beer.  

One night while visiting, we were thinking about what we wanted for dinner.  We wanted a restaurant with a good selection of beer and excellent barbecue.  You might think some place as far north as the White Mountains couldn't possible have great barbecue.  You'd be wrong.  While I can think of a few places that meet that criteria, we opted for Hill Billy's Southern BBQ.

I got St. Louis style pork ribs and hubby went with the beef ribs.  The portions were big.  In fact, each the beef ribs were the size of a chubby squirrel.  The ribs were tender and delicious.  The sauce?  Mmmm, finger lickin' good.

There were a couple of Shock Top seasonals on tap that I'd never had so that's what I went with. Shock Top is brewed by Anheuser-Busch.  I'm of the opinion that mega brewers don't do craft style brews well, but it was worth a go.  

End Of The World Midnight Wheat (6% ABV) sounded interesting.  Frankly, it was the name that made the choice for me.  It is a Belgian-style wheat ale and was served in a shaker pint.  It was a cloudy brown with a small but dense head that left behind decent lacing.  The aroma as sour and a touch skunky.  My first impression of the taste was "this is an odd tasting beer".  Yes, I literally said that.  End of the World is slightly sweet and, well, odd.  I'm guessing the oddness was the chili spice.  It just didn't go.  That being said, I did not finish the glass of beer.  That's very telling.  Overall - blah.

Raspberry Wheat (5.2% ABV) is a fruit beer.  It was served in a shaker pint.  It was a cloudy honey color with a thin head.  The aroma was all raspberry.  The taste was all raspberry.  The mouth feel was light and bubbly.  The raspberry wheat was good and good flavor up front.  Unfortunately, the finish left a soapy taste in my mouth and that ruined it for me.  Overall - meh.

A bad beer night for me but the barbecue was super good.  So, next time I skip the Shock Top.  No big loss, there are plenty of other beers on tap at Hill Billy's and I know the food is excellent.

Check out this review from a previous visit to Hill Billy's where I had a beerific experience.

Moat Mountain Wee Heavy

For most people, winter time in the White Mountains of New Hampshire is about snow sports.  For me, it's about the beer.  Of course, for me, it's always about the beer.

So, a trip to the Mount Washington valley wouldn't be complete without a trip to Moat Mountain Smokehouse and Brewing Co.

In between adventures - yes we actually do more than just drink beer - we stopped by for a bite to eat and a refreshing cold beverage.

For noms I got the curry crab and corn chowder and Buffalo wings.  I love the soup and the wings are enormous and tasty.  I was remiss in ordering my favorite appetizer this time - hush puppies with maple syrup - there's always next time.

I was really looking forward to a 20-oz Violet B's.   And then I noticed a new beer on the house draft menu.  Wee Heavy, a scotch ale.  Do I like scotch ale?  Hmmm.  I don't know.  It's not a style I typically select.  Nevertheless, I had to try it.  

Typically, a scotch ales are a malted pale ale. They're usually classified as light, heavy, export or wee heavy.  The classification is determined by the alcohol content.  From light coming in at a very sessionable 3.5% ABV and wee heavy tipping the scales at 6% ABV or more.

I like pale ale, I like malt and I like alcohol . . . win, win, win.

Moat Mountain's Wee Heavy weighs in at 7.8% ABV and is only available in a 16-oz glass, as opposed to a big honkin' 20 ouncer.   It arrived in a shaker pint with a thin swirly head.  The aroma was malty with a sour undertone.  The taste was big and bold.  Malty, spicy to start with a dry finish.  The mouth feel is heavy and smooth, almost creamy - very nice.  It was interesting that it tasted very strong (alcohol-wise) and I was expecting a big boozy burn.  But that didn't happened.  

I like this beer A LOT.  I ordered a second glass, if that's any indication.  Sadly, Wee Heavy is only on tap on premises and is not available in growlers or bombers.

Over all, super good.