Saturday, March 29, 2014


You may be wondering how I get my hands on so many straight-from-Belgium beers. The answer is baseball.

Little did I know that baseball is so popular in Belgium. That is, until my Belgian friend asked if I could buy him baseball uniforms and gear and ship it to him. Apparently, baseball stuff is wicked expensive to buy in Belgium and most US companies don't ship internationally. Somehow it's cheaper for me to ship the stuff to him than for him to buy it there. So, whatever.

I send him baseball stuff for his team - the Limburg White Sox (Facebook Page) - and he sends me beer; including the much sought after and coveted Westveterlin 12. It also just so happens that my buddy is a big schmuckety-muck of said White Sox team.

One of the beers he sent me - aside from the Westy 12 - was McChouffe brewed by Brasserie d'Achouffe in the Ardennes mountains of Belgium.

Ironically, there is also a baseball connection with this brew and the United States. For comparison, I bought a bottle of the imported version of this beer. As I was perusing the back label - of the American label because I don't read Dutch - and waaaaaaaaaaaaay down at the bottom of the label it reads, "In 2006, the Chouffe gnomes discovered they have baseball-playing family at the Brewery Ommegang farmstead in Cooperstown, NY." Geographically speaking, Ommegang is practically in my back yard and I totally dig their brews.

The first difference I noticed with the beer was the packaging. The Belgian beer us bottled in squat little bottles but the imports are packaged in big honkin' champagne bottles (capped not corked).

Another difference, not surprisingly, the import label is written in English and the Belgian brew is mostly in Dutch.

The differences in the outside of the bottle are obvious. It's what's inside that I'm most interested in. In a side-by-side comparison of the import vs. the Belgian version, I'm was mildly disappointed to note that they are pretty much the same with only subtle differences; which can easily be attributed to the difference in age, batch, storage, etc.

McChouffe (8.00% ABV) pours a cloudy coppery brown. The head is thick but diminishes quickly and leaves behind minimal lacing.

The aroma is mildly sweet and fruit with a nice earthy quality. Sadly, there is also a slight metallic odor that is a off-putting.

The taste is a big blast of sweet malt, bready yeast,  and dried fruits. This is offset by earthy undertones. The metallic note carry over from the nose but it's not overly distracting. The finish is mostly malt tinged with a bit of dark sugar.

The mouthfeel is medium with lively carbonation.

McChouffe is a bold malty brew. Quaffable and refreshing.

Overall: good.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cold Ass Honky

When I was a wee snip of girl, one of the things I most looked forward to during the week was Friday nights and watching the Dukes of Hazzard.

I dreamed of being blessed with long legs like Daisy (yeah, that didn't happen. Not even close!), enjoying a romance with Luke,  taking a ride in the Robert E. Lee (with Luke, of course), and flapping the ears of Roscoe Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Coltrane’s hound dog Flash. I even fantasized giving Boss Hogg’s jowls a jiggle to prove the theory of perpetual motion.

When I saw the label on a bottle of Brash Cold Ass Honky, it immediately conjured images of my favorite show.

I must be getting old, but I had no flippin' clue as to what a cold ass honky was.

Apparently, it's supposed to be some sort of a compliment. The best I can come up with is that the source of this phrase is from a song called Thrift Shop from rapper Macklemore. The pertinent lyrics:

I'm so pumped about some shit from the thrift shop

Ice on the fringe, it's so damn frosty

That people like, "Damn! That's a cold ass honkey."

Yeah, okay, whatever.

Needless to say, I had to buy the brew.

Cold Ass Honky (8.5 ABV) pours a haze deep gold color. The head is thick and clingy leaving behind nice layered lacing.

The aroma is fruity, yeasty, and malty.

The taste is a nice breadiness with overtones of citrus and grapefruit. Not grapefruit like a hoppy grape fruitiness. But full-on real fruit grapefruit (if you know what I mean). There's a solid malt back bone and other milder fruit flavors plus a bit of funkiness thrown in for good measure. There is a clear alcohol presence but it's not obnoxious. The finish is mildly bitter.

The mouthfeel is somewhat light with nice carbonation.

Cold Ass Honky is tasty and delightfully, yet dangerously, drinkable.

Overall: good

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wild IPA - Quarantined Series #1

I received a gift of brews from the guys a Bottom-Side-Up Brewing. As they say, they are two homebrewing brothers who like to make good beer!

Well, I'll be the judge of that.

I busted into the most interesting looking bottle first. It was the smallest, with the most simplistic label, and - most intriguing of all - it was labeled 'Wild IPA'.

The description on the back of the label made it all the more enticing. An IPA aged on Cabernet soaked oak chips and infected with strains of wild yeast. The result is a funk, fruity wild IPA.

Tell me that doesn't sound interesting!

It pours a clear honey gold with no trace of a head.

The aroma is of fruit and a crisp wine.

The taste was unique and wonderful.  I was expecting more hops but the aging process mellowed out much of the wonderful bitterness. But it was quite lovely, just the same. Just different from what I had anticipated.  The wood and Cabernet were very much in evidence. Compared to other sours I've had, this one was completely different. It changed the way I viewed sours; most of which I've had have been too sweet and not so much sour. This one was fantastic and now I can't wait to drink more of this style.

The mouth feel was medium and smooth. Very drinkable.

I wish I had had more but, alas, I had to share. Still, I would have wanted more.  This was a great beer. I think I'm hooked on sours!

Overall: excellent

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cooking with Beer - One-beer Three-Bean Salad

This recipe is inspired by one of the bartenders at my favorite pub. She gave me some of her homemade bean salad to try and it was so yummy that I wanted to make one of my own. So I did; with beer, of course.

This salad is super easy and so tasty. It keeps really well, so you can make it and enjoy it all week long with lunch or as a side dish.

I used Two Roads No Limits Hefeweizen, but you can use any good wheat beer.

One-beer Three-Bean Salad

1 12-oz Bottle Wheat Ale
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
3 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
4 Oz Grape Seed Oil
Salt And Pepper
1 16-oz Can Cut Green Beans 
1 16-oz Can Kidney Beans, Rinsed & Drained
1 16-oz Can Garbanzo Beans, Rinsed, & Drained
1 Small Sweet Onion, Minced
1 6-oz Can Sliced Black Olives, Drained
1 Cup Cucumber, Peeled, & Chopped Cucumber
1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
1 Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese

Pour the beer into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat. Cook until reduced to a thin syrup. Set it aside to cool.

Combine the beans, onion, olives, parsley, and cucumber in a large bowl.

Pour the cooled beer into a jar or small bowl and mix in the mustard, oil, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over the bean mixture. Mix in the feta cheese; toss to coat. 

Chill until ready to serve.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Chateau Jiahu

Jiahu was the location of a small hamlet in ancient China. The community has been defunct for nearly 8000 years but they were a relatively advanced society. They had written language, musical instruments, pottery, and booze. Discovered within clay vessels was the residue of a wine fermented from rice, honey and hawthorn leaves.

Chateau Jiahu (10% ABV) is a beer brewed by Dogfish Head based on those archaic remnants. It is brewed with orange blossom honey, muscat grape juice, barley malt and hawthorn fruit. The wort is fermented with sake yeast.

It pours a clear honey gold with a small thin head; even with an aggressive pour.

The aroma is both wine-like and mead-like in character; tart grapes and sweet honey.

The taste has crisp wine, sake, and mead characteristics blended with a solid malt backbone. Subtle fruit and other flavors are teasing.  The finish is soft honey and dry wine.

The mouthfeel is medium and lively carbonation.

Despite the sweetness and decided lack of bitterness, this is not a cloying or sticky brew. It's quite nice and dangerously drinkable.

Chateau Jiahu is a complex and wonderful flavor explosion. I could drink way too much of it.

Overall: very good.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Oatmeal Yeti

There's this show on Animal Planet called Finding Bigfoot. It is, hands down, one of the dumbest reality shows ever. The show follows four "investigators" who travel about examining "compelling evidence" to try and "prove the existence of the elusive creature".  They scream, they whack trees, they freak out.

I got sucked into watching it one night and it was a like watching a train wreck. In my ever so humble opinion, the show is an unqualified, unscientific, subjective load of sasquatch poo.

The Yeti is the Tibetan version of the unsubstantiated American Bigfoot legend.

It is also a beer brewed by Great Divide. They brew Yeti Imperial Stout and assorted varieties of such.

Oatmeal Yeti (9.50% ABV ) pours deep and dark with a pillow thick foam that leaves behind lovely mocha colored lacing.

The aroma is roasty and sweet with notes of coffee, milk chocolate, and vanilla.

The taste is has the bittersweet qualities imparted by dark roasted malt. Fresh coffee, sweet chocolate, caramelized sugar. The hops are subtle and provide balance. The oats give this brew an incredible smooth palatability. The alcohol is well concealed (much like the Yeti the beer is named after). The finish is dark chocolate and char.

The mouth feel is thick, full, and creamy.

Oatmeal Yeti is a luscious beer drinking experience.

Overall: very good!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cappuccino Stout

I received a bottle of Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout for Christmas a couple of years ago. I've been saving it for a special occasion. Either that or I keep forgetting that I have it in my stash. I'll go with the 'special occasion' scenario, it sounds less like my brain is mushifying.

Of course I had to try it when saw it on tap at Porky's. Especially since I haven't had a Lagunitas brew in a while. Now I really can save my bottle for a special occasion.

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout ( 9.20% ABV) is an American Imperial Stout. It pours a deep dark brown with ruby highlights. The head is thick and creamy. It lingers and leaves behind nice glass grabbing lace.

The aroma is of roasty malt and fresh brewed coffee.

The taste is more of the same with hints of dark chocolate. This brew is barely sweet and pleasantly bitter. A good balance of flavors. The alcohol is nicely concealed. The finish is roasty with coffee notes.

The mouth feel is smooth and full.

Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout is a tasty example of a good coffee stout. Smooth, creamy, and delicious!

Overall: very good

Friday, March 7, 2014

Palo Santo Marron

I loathe to utter a disparaging word about Dogfish Head beer, because I'm such a huge fan, but I have to admit that I really didn't like Palo Santo Marron.

Palo Santo Marron is a brown ale aged in hand crafted barrels made Palo Santo wood. The wood imparts characteristics of vanilla and caramel. Sounds good right?

I can't put my finger on exactly what it was that I didn't like about the brew. But I didn't like it. So sad.

Palo Santo Marron (12.00% ABV) pours a a deep cherry red with a thick mocha colored head. The foam holds on but leaves little lacing behind.

The aroma is sharp. It smells of dried fruit, malt, and wood.

The taste is sweet, boozy, and wood char.  I tasted some vanilla and toffee but it was underwhelming. The finish was woody.

The mouthfeel was medium and tingly from the alcohol.

Palo Santo Marron was disappointing to me since I generally love Dogfish Head beer; even their offbeat offerings. I guess you can't love them all not matter how much you want to.


Overall: blech

Monday, March 3, 2014

Cooking with Beer - Beerfuddled Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's pie is a savory meat pie with a crust of mashed potato. This simple and tasty dish originated in Ireland.

It's a well known stereotype that the inhabitants of the Emerald Isle are all a bunch of lushes. True or not, it occurred to me to honor this distinction by beerifying the popular Irish dish.

I used beer in both the cooking of the potatoes and the beef mixture. The result is subtle and delicious.

I used a bottle of home brewed brown ale. Experiment and use what you like.

Beerfuddled Shepherd’s Pie

1 1/2 Lbs Lean Ground Round Beef
1 Onion, Minced
2 Cups Frozen Mixed Vegetables (Carrots, Corn, Peas, Green Beans)
8 Tablespoons Butter
1 12-Oz Bottle Beer
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning 
3 Large Russet Potatoes
4 Oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese
4 Oz Light Cream or Half-n-Half
Fresh Ground Pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut into large chunks. Place in a large saucepan. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Pour 1 cup of the beer over the potatoes and then add water until the potatoes are covered in liquid. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook until soft; about 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, melt 4 tablespoons butter in large frying pan over medium heat. Add the minced onions to the melted butter and season with Tony Chachere's. Sauté onions until translucent.

Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. When meat is thoroughly browned add the frozen vegetables. Add Worcestershire sauce and the remaining 1/2 cup of beer. Cook, uncovered, over low heat for 10 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and mash with the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, cheddar cheese, and cream. Stir in a grind or two of fresh ground pepper. Adjust seasoning according to taste.

Place beef mixture in a baking dish or dutch oven. Spread the mashed potatoes on top.

Bake in a 400° Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are nicely browned.