A blog that explores the seemingly endless beer options available, and occasionally brings up your Mom.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Buy a Pint and Drink it too

    
     Hey guys, guess what?
I have recently returned from a vacation. That's right, a boozin' crusin' end of the month celebration of beer in three different cities. What did I learn from this escapade from brewery to ale house to brewpub? Simply -- that I have so much yet to learn and explore! Every time I travel I find new things to love about the world, and beer. Like how wonderful it is to eat fresh basil on a flat bread pizza while drinking a Pale Ale in the middle of Park Slope, and how the nicest place to have a pint in Philadelphia isn't with a couple a Monks, but rather down a narrow street, through a door and up a staircase (Thanks for the details, Megh!). When it comes to traveling and nailing down the perfect location to throw one back, depend on the locales. Google is strictly for semi-accurate directions, not planning. Find a friend, a stranger, or if you have something in-between that, ask them. I just think it's important to discuss and find a place thats fitting to you, not some hyped up location. But that's my personal opinion, others like shouting over people in a crowded room (not my thing). As my favorite beer locations grow, so will yours, as I will share a bit of my traveling experience with you now, and more so in the future. So if you're cruising the North East, this is where you have you go:

     Nodding Head Brewing Co. (Philadelphia PA.) When I went into Philadelphia I went with an open slate, no plans of where to go (just beer related, please). I have always heard about the Monk's Cafe, which is a world renowned Belgian Beer Bar, yet for some reason I had no pull to go there. I wanted something off the beaten path (/sticky floor).  A while back I read about this "little brewery in the heart of Philadelphia" called NoddingHead Brewery. I have never heard of any of their beers, let alone their existence really, so I figured every sip I had would be something new to me, so this was the place to check out. I asked my Phili pal Meghan (of whom I met for a pint at The Time, another GREAT location, few hookers, lots of beer), if she has ever heard of the Nodding Head. Not only has she heard of it, but it was literally on the other side of the street, one block down. So off I was to brewery number 4 (the first 3 are another story!) on the trip, and a location I knew nothing about. As I was walking I realized that I must have passed the place, so I turned around, walked. Wait no, maybe I didn't pass it, oh wait, here is a sign, "Nodding Head Brewery". Under the sign is a door. Through that door is nothing but a steep staircase, darkly lit. I look at my beau Colin for assurance and say "Hmmm, best place yet?" We agreed and trotted right up. And the best place? It sure was. Up those stairs is one of the most beautiful bars I have ever seen. Dim lighting, woodwork everywhere, old fashion Philadelphia memorabilia lining hand made shelves, over a dozen velvet booths with no tables, purely for laying around and talking. And two small high-top tables for two in the front bay windows, that's my seat.  
     What to try: Right off the bat, it's imperative to know that these people make their own Berliner-Weisse, deemed "Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse" (!!!!). This low alcohol sour wheat ale is not a typical beer to see on a brew pub draft list for a couple of reasons, one being that it is not the easiest beer in the world to brew. The "sour" is derived from infecting the beer with bacteria. Traditionally, a secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle by burying or storing the bottle in a warm place. But since this brew is on draft they must have taken a different step. What Nodding Head likely did was add Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is a bacteria, a member of the lactic acid family of bacteria which give sour ales their tart flavor. Often a Berliner-Weisse will be served with a sweet flavored syrup, like raspberry, to balance out the sourness. Nodding Head had the option of blending the Ich Bin Ein Berliner Weisse with Woodruff syrup (a licorice like flavor). A must go location at night!
      Double Windsor (Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY) -  If you are ever in the-big-city, walking along the water in Prospect Park, proceed past the condom collections and head west to Prospect Ave West and stop at the Double Windsor. A wonderful craft beer bar that caters to the beer snobs with a hunger for comfort food. Pair one of their hard to find beers with their famous Cheeseburger, Pulled Pork or one of their Vegetarian options. Don't ask for a menu, it's a black board (don't make the waitress a pointer, you know?.) The restaurant looks like an open aired tavern, with wooden tables and benches for dining, and long high tops for people watching along the wide open windows. This place frequently invites breweries from across the country for sampling events and have a regular Triva Night to test the knowledge of their beer lovers. Out of all the places I could go to in Brooklyn, I find myself coming back to this place time and again.
      What to try -
When I was there, I had the pleasure of enjoying the Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (11.2% ABV!). I have been waiting to have this baby on tap for some while now. I am doing my best to get into Bourbon Aged ales, and this was a big help! A thick black color with an alluring aroma of chocolatey bourbon with a hint of coffee roast. The taste lives up to the aroma 100%, a slow sipper for sure. While they may not have the KBS on tap when you enter this saloon, you will be happy to see the vast selection of craft beers that are constantly rotating. To see what is on tap right now, check it out here -> http://www.beermenus.com/the-double-windsor.

     The Foodery (Philadelphia, PA.) - This location is the inspiration to the blog title "Buy a Pint and Drink it too". The Foodery is a small craft beer store who specializes in selling single bottles of beer , with a selection of over 800 different American and Imported brews. Want a six pack? Well grab an empty pack and make one. If you can picture the depressing Wegmans "Make your own Craft Pack" section, well this is a place that was doing that long before Wegmans realized people like beer. What is unique about this place, something we could never do in my home state of New York, is that once you purchase a single bottle from the store you can sit right down and drink it! Want another? Walk right up to the freezer, pick out a fresh cold one and sit right back down. Outside of their wonderful beer selection they have a unique deli with items my picky hands have never touched before (but wanted to). Most importantly, the staff is knowledgeable about their products (thank god) and if they don't have what you are looking for they will call around the city and help you find it. They have two locations in Philadelphia and have brewery samplings daily (daily!). A great place to stop in before hitting the road back north, because there is few places like this. 
     What to try - I figured while you are at the Foodery you should try a food and beer pairing. A popular deli pick is the Maple Honey Turkey and Cream Cheese Sandwich. The sandwich comes with cucumbers, tomatoes and honey mustard on rye bread. To compliment the flavors of the turkey I would suggest a Bock beer, specifically a Heller Bock (light in color, slight hop flavor, full bodied, usually about 6-8% ABV). It a good choice because it will not over power any of the flavors from your meal, yet it will help cut any spicy flavors, helping you taste everything else that's going on in your sammie. A couple of Bock suggestions would be the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary, Capital Maibock or the Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus Bier Helles. And once again, good staff, they will point you in the right direction if those brews are not present.

If that's not enough reason to hit up two popular cities, I'm not sure what is! Go and drink it my friends. 

Cheers!

Photos courtesy of:
http://www.fuckedinparkslope.com/home/official-fips-endorsement-the-double-windsor.html
http://www.uwishunu.com/tag/nodding-head/
http://www.uwishunu.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/The-Foodery.jpg

Monday, May 9, 2011

Your next Mothers Day gift will be better.


      Did you buy your Mom a card yesterday? If you did, the founder of Mother's Day would be pissed! Inspired by her Mom's "Mothers' Day Work Clubs" that improved sanitary and health conditions, Anna Jarvis founded Mothers Day in 1914. Upset about it's commercialization in the 1920's Jarvis famously said "A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself!" She spent the rest of her life, and money, protesting what Mothers' Day had become. So next time you should play it safe (and not piss off Anna Jarvis)  by picking out a crafty brew your Mom will love! And since tomorrow is Mothers' Day in El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico you have a second chance! You can pretty much bank on the fact that if it's between the months of March - June, it's Mothers Day somewhere (and shouldn't it be?) This Mothers Day season we should keep in mind one of the most giving Mom's of all,  Mother Earth, and thank her for giving us the water, barley and hops we need to brew up a batch of love to share with our Moms. One brewery that keeps Big Momma in mind is Mother Earth Brewing Company from Kingston, NC. They keep sustainability a priority, from the solar panels on the brewery roof down to their "Hop Project" which produced 25 new hoppy friends for the brewery to maintain. These guys are on a mission to brew up some of the greenest beer in the country. If you can find some, send it to me! As for some beers you can more likely snag for your Mom today, tomorrow and any other day this season, here are some Mother approved brews:

Harpoon Brewery, UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen (5.10% ABV) - The first time I ordered this beer for my Mom she talked about the color the whole time. It pours a luscious pink amber hue, very pretty in a Pilsner glass. The smell and the taste are identical for this one, a very tart raspberry flavor hits you strong in the front. Some earthy, wheat flavors follow through on the back end, helping to balance out the sour fruit. A little burn from the alcohol but blends well with the tart berry and strong carbonation. A delicious beer to pair with a salad or poultry on a summer day (with MOM!)
 
Lost Coast Brewery, Tangerine Wheat (5 % ABV) - This is your very own Mimosa beer. It's like drinking orange juice in the morning, except your feeling a little more sassy with every sip! It pours a foggy orange color, which could easily be mistaken for pulp since the aroma of oranges is so apparent, but it's the wheat that gives this brew it's earthy presence. A tangy citrus flavor is present but not overwhelming, and is broken up by the sweet wheat malt that makes this brew reminiscent of a Creamsicle, yum! One of the most refreshing beers I have had till now, and any health conscious Mom would love to know her kids are getting a tasty serving of fruit (and were happy too!)  

Haandbryggeriet, Good Force (10% ABV) - Deemed the little sister of the Dark Force (their Double Imperial Wheat Stout), is the Good Force. Not much smaller than her  big brother, the Good Force is an Imperial Wheat Beer flavored with chamomile flowers. If you're looking to impress your Mother in law this summer, or any lady with taste, introduce her to this strong Norwegian wheat. Pouring a beautiful golden color, with a bubbly strong carbonation which amplifies spicy fruit scent of the yeast. That same yeast brings out the flavors of banana and lemon, pairing wonderfully with the sweet wheat and of course, the chamomile flowers. The chamomile offers more to the aroma then to the taste, but is responsible for that spicy kick that balances between the yeast and the sweet malts. A fine dining drink any lady deserves. Find out where you can take Mom to try this one!

     Let's not forget that before the Industrial Revolution, brewing was done in the home, by none other then Mom! Take a moment, the next time you're sipping a crafty brew, to raise your glass to all the Mom's in history that mastered the art of brewing and of whom were the original home-brewers for hundreds of years. 

Cheers to all Moms! They do more than we know. 


Send comments to craftydrinker@gmail.com 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jesus was more of a beer dude.

   
     Jesus is back in town! This is more than a reason to celebrate. Easter had me thinking, "What kind of beer would Jesus like?" I started thinking of different beers that were "wine like", because of the historical relationship Jesus and Wine hold. Then it hit me, Jesus probably didn't really drink wine, he drank beer! And not only drank beer, but it's more probable that at the wedding in Cana, Jesus turned water into beer, not wine. This is likely for many reasons, but lets first back up a bit and determine what "wine" refers to in the Bible.
     The original Aramaic text talks about "strong drink", and when the Bible was translated centuries after Jesus ascended to heaven, "strong drink" was replaced with "wine". During that time, wine was considered to be an upscale beverage, reserved for the elite, or "holiest" of consumers. And since beer was cheaper to make (lots of barley everywhere!) we can assume that beer was being consumed by peasants, and does not deserve to be the "blood of Christ". So during the translation process, "strong drink" was replaced with "wine", and we can assume it wasn't the peasants doing the translating, rather the Wine-Os! I am not sure if Jesus would be so pretentious though.
     So "wine" really means "strong drink"; established. Another reason as to why Jesus was most likely drinking beer is, well, he lived in the Middle East! Grains were the principle crop of the Middle East. Grapes, not so much. Remember Ninkasi? The original beer recipe was recorded 1800 years before Christ was born, so beer was already prevalent in the Mediterranean region. They not only used beer as a drink, but they found that beer had the ability to soften ivory, making it more pliable, in the use of creating jewelry. So beer was widely used within the craft community in the Middle East, of which Jesus would have been a big part of.
     One of Jesus' first miracles happened at the Wedding in Cana, 20 miles from his home. Mary happened to have been hosting this wedding, and during which, they ran out of "wine" (strong drink). According to the Bible, the wedding ceremony had "six stone water jars...each holding from twenty to thirty gallons". Large jars were often used for ceremonial cleansing, but not at this wedding, since the jars were "empty" and Jesus' disciples did not traditionally wash their hands like a good Jew would (kind of a big deal..) So why would there be six water jugs of that size located at this wedding? Maybe for fermenting beer? These stone jugs were meant to sit in one location for a long period of time, their size and weight imply this. Back in Jesus' day, breweries from Egypt to Mesopotamia created beer by lightly baking dough composed of "ground germinated cereals". These loaves were placed with yeast and water into large vats. Since this would result in a unappealing thick sludge, it was common to "throw water upon the loaves" right before consumption, in order to create a more drinkable "strong drink", or beer. So maybe "John" forgot to mention that fact when Jesus ordered the servants to pour water in the fermenting jars. Just a consideration, it makes Jesus all the more interesting, in my opinion. 
     Miracles aside, the Roman elite would have been the only ones with access to wine. Let's not forget the time period Jesus lived in, and how he protested and fought against the Roman Empire, who eventually killed him. I just don't see Jesus going out of his way to get wine from them, or any other elite member of society that could pose a threat. Jesus knew, it was best to just hang out with your friends and share some bread and beer. With this said, here are some beers I would like to enjoy with Jesus, and even get some heavenly input!


De Struise Brouwers, Pannepot Old Fishermans Ale (10% ABV)
-  Pannepot is a term used to refer to fishing boats from the village of De Panne, located on the coast of Belgium. And as you should know, Jesus was influential among the fishing community. This is a rich dark brown ale brewed with spices. The beer pours thick brown and gives off the strong aroma of dark fruits, cinnamon, ginger and sugar. The taste and aroma blend perfectly, with a complexity and balance that shows off both the brown sugar and the roasted malts. The spices spread over the palate with cinnamon and nutmeg lingering, and finishes with hints of cherry and raisin. A wonderful beer to sip while waiting for the big catch.


Lindemans Geuze Cuvée René - (5% ABV) - This beer style would pair perfectly with seafood, and is a good representation of what some styles of "strong drink" may have tasted like, back in His day. Traditionally, a Gueze is a blend of 2/3 young Lambic and 1/3 old Lambic. The result is a golden, cider-like ale, still popular in Brussels as a happy hour drink. The Gueze Cuvee Rene smells of lemons, oak and sour fruit. Very light in color, with a sharp carbonation. The flavors of lemon and sour apple dry out your palette, while hints of oak balance out with a musky sweetness. An overall very sour finish that cleans up nicely. If you've never had a Geuze before, start here. 

Shmaltz Brewing Co, HeBrew Messiah Bold (5.6% ABV) - An ale named after Christ Himself, I would like to see how he felt about this one! Shmaltz likes Jews apparently, and decided to name their Brown Ale after the most famous Jew of all. Is this beer worthy enough to be named after such a powerful influence? Find out yourself! This brown ales pours dark black, with a small tan head. An expectant rich chocolate malt nose, with hints of fruit in the aroma. I wonder how Jesus would feel about all these smells of fruit, with no fruit used in the brewing process (perhaps it's a miracle!?). Personally, I feel that this Messiah is closer to a Stout, rather than a Brown ale in styles. This beer from Heaven is packed with roasted malts, giving off hints of smoke in the finish, and it's even a bit chewy! A well-made brown ale that is very bitter up front, but smooth and creamy in the mouth feel. A nice session beer that could turn the Last Supper into a ParTaY!

A passage from the Hebrew Bible, "Throw your bread upon the face of the water, because in many days you will acquire it. Give a serving to seven and also eight, because you do not know what evil will be upon the land." (Ecclesiastes 11:1–2) Honestly, how could this not be referring to beer? Perhaps when the Disciples went into hiding, after the death of Jesus, they spent most of their time home brewing? Maybe they were really just a home brew club? Why not right? Okay, maybe I am taking it too far...(not at all).

Cheers!

Source used:
http://www.pathguy.com/jesus/homan_beer.htm

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We must go TO the beer!

     In the United States there are currently 1,500 breweries producing beer. This includes commercial breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs. But we easily notice that our beer stores are not packed with 1,5000 different brands. In order to try all the tasty brews this country has to offer, you must go TO the beer itself. In New York, where I live, I am lucky to have the some of the finest craft breweries in the world on my local grocery shelves (and the laws to allow such a thing!) But when it comes to famous micobreweries like, New Belgium, Three Floyds or Dark Horse, to just name a few, we just can't get that here. This is for several reasons, the main reason being that craft breweries simply can't produce enough beer to supply the whole country. Remember, to be considered a "craft brewery" you must legally produce UNDER 6 million barrels a year (1/2 barrel = what you did a keg stand on last night). This means that if every person in the United States wanted to receive beer from one specific micobrewery, the most anyone could obtain is an amount just over two 6-packs to last the whole year (assuming people are sharing properly). So heaven forbid you like the beer, because that is how thin distribution would be. Also, distributors are just not in favor of cross distribution.
     Distributors are the middle man between beer and the consumer. Breweries sell their beer to a distributor, who then sell it to a retailer, and only the retailer can sell to a consumer. This system is called the "three-tier system" and wealthy lobbyists make sure it stays in effect each year, and to their benefit. So for instance, if you owned a grocery store across the street from your favorite brewery, you wouldn't be allowed to purchase beer directly from the brewery for your store. Instead, the beer gets picked up by a big truck along with other beer and products, is then taken to the distributors headquarters, and sits until you place an order for it (tick tock tick tock). Then the truck is re-loaded with beer and other products and is shipped to your store. In this common situation, this is literally the biggest waste of gasoline, time and money (the breweries). So we have this continuing cycle of breweries who can not produce enough beer to supply the country (because they need to stay under 6 million barrels, legally), selling their beer to a distributor that in itself cannot legally distribute to the whole country (cross expansion laws). So the lack of variety on our grocery shelves is due to all that mess.  Of course there is an upside to this three-tier system, like the opportunity for small breweries to have their beer in more prominent locations and stores, because, they couldn't have done that otherwise (....?). But don't get me wrong, it's not that distributors are comprised of bad people, it's just that they should hang out with landlords, ya know?
     On a hoppier note, I have had the great pleasure of trying some crafty beers that I can't find in my current town (Thank you, Vinny!). I encourage you to make time in your calendars for your own brewery road trip to get some eye opening tours and new friends for the fridge. Chances are, those beers might not be at your corner store anyway, and plus, it's fun to be the middle man sometimes. Here are a few beers that I recently tried for the first time, that I can not purchase in New York (and now you know why).

Bell's Brewing Co., Hop Slam (10% ABV) - Not only do I like this beer for it's cool bottle cap, but it's an incredibly smooth Double India Pale Ale, considering that it's 10% ABV! I let this beer warm up to close to room temperature before trying it, because I really wanted to taste all of the different hops they packed into it. There is no restraint on this aroma, the thick scent of citrus, pine and grass went right through my head! This tangy aroma balanced out the malt wonderfully, right until the last sip. Personally, I was surprised by the unexpected sweetness of this beer. I was expecting a bitter dry bite, but the hops just roll along the palette, leaving flavors of citrus, sweet malt and fruit. They did a good job of keeping the alcohol flavor under control too, allowing the floral aroma create most of the taste. The upmost fitting name for a beer I have tried yet, because I could undoubtedly Hop Slam this baby all day.

21st Amendment Brewing Co., Monks Blood (8.3% ABV)
- Okay, I may be sounding a bit like a "book cover judger" today, but 21st Amendment has some of the best packaging out of any brewery I have seen. The designs on their cans are so well done and epic, that if you saw this at your grocery store, you'd buy it just based on the artwork. But I am here to tell you that you should buy 21st Amendment brews for two reasons, one being that you can start a classy collection of beer cans in your office without question, and two being that it's some damn good beer. Monks Blood just came out this past February and is the result of a trip to Belgium by 21st Amendment founders, Nico and Shaun. Inspired by their travels, they created Monks Blood, a Dark Belgium Ale that is brewed with vanilla beans, cinnamon, dried black mission figs and aged on oak chips. You can pick up the strong scent of figs immediately, followed by a sharp sweetness that may be due to the Abbey Ale yeast or the cinnamon. A very enjoyable Belgium ale that cleans up very nicely, no left over sour flavor here. This beer really warmed me up inside and would pair perfectly with an elegant dessert (or a tub of ice cream, whatever). 

Founders Brewing Co., Red's Rye PA - (6.6 % ABV)
- I didn't look into who Red is, but I like his take on a Rye Pale Ale. Hoppy, bitter and dry. The scent from the Amarillo hops bring out a floral, citrus-spice aroma. Very distinct smell, a little grapefruit with rye coming through, offering a scent similar to that of pepper, very sharp. The taste is bitter, hops are very much present and the rye offers an earthy-malt sweetness. A lot is going on in this beer, and it's almost difficult to distinguish some of the complex flavors. This may be due to the Belgian caramel malts they use, of which I am not too familiar. All I know for sure is that if I come across this beer again, I am buying more than a bottle.


It's no surprise that adventurous folk are the ones who like craft beer, since they are the ones traveling and finding it. The current system of obtaining beer works, actually, that's the motto for those in support of the three-tier system "The Three-Tier System, It's What Works!" But I think it is fair to say that just because something is working, doesn't mean we need to stick to it. Imagine if we lived in a world where all businesses refused to progress and build a sustainable future for themselves and others. When we build dead ends for small businesses, how are the bigger ones going to get out too? Maybe they have bigger trucks for us to fit into?

Cheers!!

Sources used:
www.mcbasset.com/Training/Vegas.pdf
http://www.craftbeer.com/pages/beerology/small-independent-traditional 

Drunk comments can be sent to craftydrinker@gmail.com 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WHEN THEY SPROUT, DRINK THEM

  
     Now that St. Patrick has blessed us with his luck for the year, it's time for Spring. The beautiful signs of Spring are all around us, from the honking Geese flying over head to the two foot difference in where you planted your bulbs last fall and where they have decided to grow. But either way, this rejuvenating season is reason enough to try some interesting brews, perhaps even some botanical ones! If you haven't noticed my ladies picking some spring buds up above, this post is all about flowers and beer, and the magical things they can do together. And if women had anything to do with the creation of beer, there better well be some flowers in it! Brewing beer with flowers does not have any historical start date, considering that experimenting with ingredients has been continuous since the creation of beer (what German Beer Purity Law?). But remember that Hops, which are normally found in beer, are a type of flower, and brewing with a different type of flower isn't a crazy concept to swallow. Like hops, flowers help to add a floral/herbal aroma to the beer, another way of balancing out the base ingredients of that beer. So before you go picking flowers from your muddy garden, try one of these beers to see what blossoming brews you'd plant in your fridge.

Dieu du Ciel Rosée dHibiscus (5.9% ABV, Flower: Hibiscus) A wheat beer that adds Hibiscus during the "flame-out" step of the brewing process. A "flame out" is exactly what it sounds like, the step in which you turn the flame off the brew, yet it remains at a temperature in which the oils and acidity are still extracted from the ingredients, but do not burn off. The name of this beer translates to "Pinkish Hibiscus" which describes the pink color of the beer that comes from the hibiscus. The hibiscus also produces the prominent fragrance found throughout this wheat ale. The aroma is of acidic berries, a sour fragrance that blends with a floral perfume. The flavors are awakening, like a sharp champagne that is grapefruit tart, with more hints of berries and orange. A lingering sweet and fruity finish that is crisp on the palette.  
Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs (8.2% ABV, Flowers: Lavender, Chamomile, Dog Rose, Marigold, Hops) This Saison gives a whole new meaning to what a Beer Garden might be, because I am pretty sure you can find one in a glass now. It's packed full with floral aromas from the edible flowers used, creating a scent like potpourri. A Saison is typically a low alcohol, pale ale that would include flavors of orange zest, coriander or ginger. The orange zesty flavor can be found in this saison, but at a wopping 8.2% ABV, this Saison is different from it's classical cousins. Flavors from this garden in a glass are of sweet fresh flowers, bitter from certain petals (hops) and a mild grain flavor breaks through to help balance everything. Nothing could take a refreshing spring day off the mind when you're sipping on this ale, except for those damn Geese.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir (9% ABV, Flower: Saffron Crocus) Dogfish Head is very proud of this one, as they should be, because it's the recipe for the oldest known fermented beverage in the world. The ingredients used were found in the 2700 year old drinking vessels of the tomb of King Midas. He is popular in Greek Mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into Gold, also for his Garden of Roses (which, apparently must have been gold?) Either way, I'm glad all of this happened because it has led to one awesome beer. Dogfish Head uses Saffron in this brew, which is a derived spice from the Saffron Crocus. In addition, they use barley, white Muscat grapes and honey. The aroma and flavors are very sweet and alcoholic like a white wine, so be ready for this one. The flavors start with the honey and grapes, very sweet, followed by a slight bitterness from the hops. The saffron comes through at the end, which helps to add to an aromatic finish. A slow sipper for sure, after all, it has the Midas Touch!

     These are just a few examples of the different flowers/herbs you could infuse with beer. In 2008, we (the world) went through a bit of a hop scare, when there was a shortage and prices went through the roof! It was a hard time for many small breweries and still is, but it also helped some breweries get back to the drawing board and get creative with their brewing methods. For example, to help offset their dependency on hops, New Belgium came out with a dandelion beer called "Lips of Faith - Dandelion Ale" which was inspired by the hop shortage, and added the natural bittering affect usually supplied by the hops. They proved that despite hard times, brewing a beer you love is still possible. So when you are walking around this spring, think to yourself, would that flower taste good in my beer? Then try it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

IT'S THAT TIME OF THE YEAR

     It's here everyone, Saint Patrick's Day. And the best part is, that it's barely a day at all, rather a week long celebration of drinking beer and pretending to be Irish. Ireland has been celebrating March 17th as a religious holiday since the fifth century, when Old Saint Pat himself croaked. The Holiday remained to be pretty low key in Ireland until the 1970's, but the United States turned this date into a party a couple centuries ago. In fact, the first St. Patrick's Day parade was in New York City in 1762, and still continues to this day, being one of the biggest parades in the country. Today, we celebrate by kissing people with T shirts who tell you to do so, and drinking Green Labatt Blue (big business joke here).

This year, however, is special. 

Because my very own boyfriend (and President of the Untied States) Barack Obama will be brewing his own batch of beer and serving it on St. Patrick's Day, to guests in the White House. I am still awaiting a little Leprecauhn to come deliver my invitation to join him, but he has a few days. But it's true, Obama-be-Brewin'! And since he has to be the first person to do everything, he is the first recorded President to brew beer inside of the White House. Again, making history. He will be serving his very own "White House Honey Ale", using the honey from the White House beehive. Since the chances of any of us trying a sip of this beer is completely zero, here are some St. Patrick's Day must-haves for the week:

Carlow O'Haras Celtic Stout (4.3% ABV) During St. Patrick's Day, most people turn to the classic Guinness, which in fact, is one of my favorite beers. But it's important to support a variety of breweries, including this small brewing company called Carlow, in Carlow Ireland. The O'Hara family started this brewery in 1996 and have been making Irish style ales ever since. This Celtic Stout is a Dry Stout, and is as smooth as they come. The first time I tried this beer, I said goodbye to Guinness and Murphys right away. You may find yourself chugging these so fast you turn green, but it's a good week to do so.  It's a perfect session beer because it has a smooth and rich balance, and a low ABV. The nose is sweet and malty, so you know that you will be tasting some chocolate. Flavors are a creamy blend of espresso (roasty and bitter) and of sweet chocolate. Very thin in body, making it so unbelievably drinkable. This beer won the Championship Trophy and two gold medals at the International Millennium Brewing Industry Awards in 2000, and still tastes as good. 

Avery Out of Bound Stout  (5.1% ABV) Another roasty stout, with a bit more flavor. As Avery claims, "This big, roasty stout takes flavor to the extreme!" Which may or may not be true. Not as much of a session beer as the O'Hara's but nothing a true Irish couldn't handle. This beer pours black, and if you hold it up to the light you won't be able to see anything shine through. (I am honestly having a hard time writing this blog because I LOVE STOUTS and all I want to do is go sit on my porch in the sunshine and drink one). But this stout has that thick dark roast a lot of people look for in a stout. This beer has a stronger aroma of dark chocolate, malt and even hazelnut. The taste is similar, with a bit of a hop character coming through to lighten up the maltyness. The bitter flavor from the roasted malt and the high carbonation help to clean up the palette, making you thirsty for that next sip. Yum, I love being an American Irish.


Flying Bison Brewing Co. Aviator Red (5.2% ABV) Now, I know I will be drinking a lot of this on St. Patrick's Day. Flying Bison is a small brewing company in Buffalo, NY and has been filling pints around Buffalo for almost 11 years. And if you need to know anything about Buffalo, it's that we love beer. Aviator Red is Flying Bisons flag ship ale, and certainly should be. Modeled after an Irish Red Ale, this ale is brewed with 6 different malts which give it the rich malty flavor and beautiful ruby color. This brew has a decent amount of hops which help to balance out the malt flavor and give a nice bitter kick. The flavors are of nutty malt, hints of chocolate and caramel, and the hoppy bouquet balances wonderfully. A great beer to share with friends whilst walking to the parade downtown. A Saint Patrick's Day must have (and if you're in Buffalo, pick up their Oatmeal Stout too!)

Ah yes, the season of longer days and warmer nights is almost upon us, and I couldn't be more ready. Be sure to try something different this season, because not only are there a lot of good Irish Stouts and Irish Red Ales out right now, but there are some tasty Spring seasonals that you should check out before they are gone too! Email me your spring favorites at craftydrinker@gmail.com



JibJab - One Lucky Leprechaun by JibJab


Cheers!

Monday, March 7, 2011

NINKASI IS MY GODDESS

     If you have ever wondered who made God's beer, it's a woman, and her name is Ninkasi. Happy Women's History Month. Ninkasi is the Sumerian Goddess of Brewing and is the topic of one of the oldest found writings of civilization titled "The Hymn to Ninkasi". The poem was written around 1800 BC and describes the recipe for a Sumerian Beer. In fact, many ancient societies credit the creation of beer to women, including ancient Egyptians who worshiped the Goddess Hathor for being the “queen of drunkness and dance and the inventress of beer" (can we hang out?). Today, women still open new breweries, manage them and brew their own beer. Just to name a few current beer queens...

Luann Alcorn (Custom Brewcrafters, Rochester, NY)
Sara Choler (Saint Louis Brewery, St. Louis, MO)
Ellen Bounsall (McAuslan, Quebec, PQ)
Melanie Miller (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA)
Darrah Bryans (Brew Moon, Cambridge, MA)
Barbara Groom (Lost Coast Brewing Co., Eureka, CA)
Anetta Jewell (Great Lakes Brewing, Etobicoke, ON)
Rhonda Kallman (Boston Beer, Boston, MA)
Karen Plunkett (Walkerville Brewing, Windsor, ON)
Mary Lou Moore (San Diego's Riptide Brewery/Brewski's Gaslamp Pub, San Diego, CA)
Deb Carey (New Glarus Brewing, New Glarus, WI)
Laure Pomianowski (Santa Fe Brewing Co. Galisteo, NM)
Lauren Clark (Cambridge Brewing, Cambridge, MA)
Jodi Andrews (Boston Beer Works, Boston, MA)
Mary Rubenstein (Middle Ages, Syracuse, NY)
Jocelyn Hughes (Watch City, Salem, MA)
Carol Stoudt (Stoudt's, Adamstown, PA)
Laura Urtnowski (Les Brasseurs du Nord, Quebec, PQ)
Judy Wildman (Tremont Brewing, Boston, MA)

...you get the point. As a lass myself, it is great to see so many successfull women who have not only taken on the skill of brewing but have gone past that by getting a proper education in the trade and have used their talents, knowledge and passion to create beer they want to share with the world. Now let's see what these wenches got brewin':

Lost Coast's Brewing Company Indica India Pale Ale (6.5% ABV) Our girl; Barbara Groom, Her deal; Pharmacist went Brewmaster. Barbara and her partner, Wendy Pound, had dreams of opening a brewery and cafe, and like anyone who wanted a brewery, they went and bought a Castle in 1989. The Pythian Castle in Eureka, California was the home to Lost Coast Brewing Company but became too small for the success of the business, and is now located just down the road, or Highway 101. So if you like California cruisin' and grapefruits, this is the beer for you. A golden colored IPA that has aromas of tart fruits, citrus and pine. The taste is sweet for an IPA with hints of toasted malts, but the show is in the citrusy floral notes that come through and stay. The hops give an overwhelming grapefruit flavor, which is fine by me. This beer has a finish that brings "bitter" and "refreshing" together. Barbara Groom encourages home brewers to experiment with ingredients as much as possible and to have fun with the small batches, “That’s one thing we can’t do in the brewery, experiment with yeast. Homebrewers have the opportunity to try (yeast strains) out,” Groom says. Knowing your ingredients on a small scale is crucial before moving to a massive system, and Groom must have known what she was doing.

Stoudt's Karnival Kolsch (4.8% ABV) Our girl; Carol Stoudt, Her deal; Kindergarten teacher opens Pennsylvania's first Microbrewery (oh yeah and raised 5 kids, no biggie). Carol is co-owner of Stoudt's Brewing Company, which she opened in 1987 along with her husband, Ed Stoudt. Carol is the face of the brewery, constantly out working the market and hosting events in promotion of their beer. She has been deemed the "Queen of Hops" and I'm just not going to question it. My favorite Stoudt's beer comes out this time of year, so you better find it! Karnival Kolsch is a German style ale that is light in body and flavor. Most people don't give light beers enough credit, because they assume flavor or color automatically makes a better beer (ignore last post). This ale is "smooth like a lager due to the colder fermentation temperature and extended cellaring time", which takes time and talent to create. The smooth factor of this beer is my favorite part. You can pick up a fruity aroma from the bittering hops, and an earthiness from the grain. The taste is round and balanced with a hint of toasted oats and grass with a mild bitter/fruity flavor that lingers with the finish. A very clean and light beer. A perfect session beer for throwing in the backpack and watching the snow melt. Meet Carol here!

Sierra Nevada's Glissade Golden Bock  (6.4% ABV) Our girl; Melanie Miller, Her deal; Brewer went MicroBiologist. When Miller started at Sierra Nevada in 1989, brewers were in charge of making the beer and doing the lab work (sanitizing, infection control). When those two tasks split, she went scientist. Today, she is a crucial part of making sure Sierra Nevadas beers are fresh, clean and most importantly, not infected. Her job get's an A+ with their Glissade Golden Bock. Compared to most bocks, this brew holds back a lot of the malty sweetness and let's the freshness from the hops come through. The taste is clean with hints of bread and grass, with notes of pine and grape from the European hops. A very easy drinking beer that makes me wish I payed attention in biology. Advice from Melanie Miller, Microbiologist at Sierra Nevada, “Everything has to be clean, your hands included. Pull back your long hair. Try not to breathe directly on anything. If you’re covered with grain dust, change your shirt or clothes. Make sure that anything that’s going near the beer is clean and sanitized,”.

      The beer industry may not seem like a ladies job any more, but I'm going to assume we just let the men do all the dirty work for us the past few centuries. Consider the fact that today there are grain lifting elevators, grain mills, electricity etc. all of which take lot of the back breaking work out of brewing, unlike when mass production first came out. Like always, women know when to pop in and out of the "fads" and here we come again, back to make an impact. If you are a woman interested in the beer industry, or a man who is interested in this secret link, click here, because these are some women you should meet.

Cheers!

Monday, February 28, 2011

THE FEAR OF FLAVA

     Remember Flava Flav? Yeah, me neither. But this entry is about diving into the dark unknown, or darker beers. The biggest concern with most non crafty drinkers is the fear of flavor, the assumption that it's going to be too heavy, too dark, too everything that isn't little Bud Light. Which is fine, it's completely an acquired taste that requires research to find your favorite style. It's like getting into new music, so much work right? I settled with listened to Jewel for the rest of my life in 1994 and never looked back. Beer, is another story. The more you learn and respect beer, the more you will love it. 
     This heaviness I refer to in beer, is also referred to as "mouth feel" or "body" of the beer. When a beer is light in body, it's considered a nice session beer, easy drinkin', goes down smooth. A full bodied beer has a nice thick mouth feel and a powerful aroma and taste that lingers. We can measure the "body" of a liquid by measuring the specific gravity of a beer, or the sugar content. The higher the specific gravity, the fuller the body, and vice versa. I took it upon myself a year or so ago to test the specific gravity of a Coca Cola and a Barleywine style beer (one of the heaviest, full bodied beers around) as research for a Craft Beer speech I made. The specific gravity of the Coca Cola was 1.06, which is high and typical for a soda. The specific gravity of the Barleywine was only 1.02. In fact, it's rare for a beer to ever exceed 1.03. What does this all mean? It means that soda has a fuller mouth feel and is heavier than almost all beers around the world.  If you fear beer because it's too filling, too heavy and has too much flavor, then by golly you're wrong! And let's not forget that beers contain proteins, and B Vitamins which are not found in soda. So if you can handle a soda, you can handle any beer.
     Whatever your growing palette may be, here are some dark beers that are light in body and easy to drink. These are great beers to try if you're just starting to get into craft beer. And if you're already a crafty champion, could funnel 15 seconds.

The Salopian Brewing Company's Entire Butt English Porter (4.8% ABV) Historically, the "Entire Butt" is a term that describes a Porter that is comprised of a variety of ales. And unlike some beers, the name Entire Butt is not a indicator of this beers taste. The aroma is thick, like smelling melted chocolate and sugar. This Porter uses 14 different types of malts that help your palette balance between sweet chocolate and oats. There is a minimal amount of hop flavor, but the malt is the headline show. When sipping on this beer, one word keeps coming to mind; creamy. This Porter goes down so smooth, with flavors of roasty milk chocolate, sweet licorice and hints of fruity hops. A slight astringency helps to clean it up and get you ready for the next sip. A ridiculously easy drinking Porter that may change the way you drink forever.

Bell's Brewing Co. Oatmeal Stout (5.7% ABV) This beer has been referred to as a full bodied beer, but you'd never know it since it's so smooth. Consider drinking hot chocolate, who would want a watery hot chocolate? Same goes for an Oatmeal Stout. You want malt, chocolate, a little roast and you want to be able to enjoy another after the first. Oatmeal Stout's are known for being nutty and chocolaty smooth on the palette with little to no alcohol flavor. Bell's Oatmeal Stout does a great job of living up to that reputation. Aromas of milk chocolate, espresso and fruity earth leave me wanting to submerge my whole face into my glass. Bell's uses flaked oats that help lend to the flavors of oatmeal that come through first, which balance with the roasted coffee and milk chocolate flavors from the malt. It has a texture that is silky thin, yet creamy, which is the easy drinkin' factor for this brew. If you're ever in Kalamazoo Michigan, make sure to stop by Bell's Eccentric Café, where this Oatmeal Stout if an old time favorite.

Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA (6% ABV) Otter Creek made this Black IPA on their pilot system (a small batch brewing system) for the Vermont Brewers Festival in Burlington, Vermont. They expected it to be a one time creation, but turned into a consumer favorite. Everyone who tasted it, wanted more. They decided to make it their new Winter Seasonal to share with the world, did you have it this winter? If not, I bet you can still find it on the shelves somewhere. This beer caters to the preferences of hop lovers as well as malt lovers, giving a nice balance of both worlds. Otter Creek uses Apollo, Centennial, and Citra hops that add bitterness to the caramel malts and roasted barley. All of this may not sound like an easy slugger, but when ingredients are in such balance (like sweet malts and bitter hops) your palette perceives it to be very smooth and drinkable. This brew has a floral aroma of pine, citrus as well as chocolate, roast and caramel. The mouth feel is light, picking up on roasted flavors from the malt and finishing dry and bitter from the hops. A very unoffensive beer that can get you into not only dark beers, but hoppy dark ones. And apparently Black IPA's are the new rage, so you better catch up.

   Four years ago (at this second perhaps) I was throwing a small orange ball into a plastic cup of Keystone Light. Since then, my palette has not only changed, but my whole life as been turned around towards exploring and supporting new beer options. Craft beer sales may seem like they are sky rocketing, but sales are still only moderating growing. Only 5% of the beer consumed in the USA each year is craft beer, meaning that 95% of beer purchased and consumed is coming from only two companies, InBev and Miller Coors. Craft brewers are concerned with producing a product they love, commercial breweries are concerned with market share. When you're consuming, what are you concerned about?

Monday, February 21, 2011

YOUR PRESIDENTIAL BEER LESSON

"We have already been too long subject to British prejudices. I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America; both these articles may now be purchased of an excellent quality." 

     One of the first to jump on the Buy American Policy, is no one other than our booze loving First President, George Washington. In 1774, Washington supported a bill drafted by fellow patriot Samuel Adams (not a coincidence), called the non-consumption agreement. In an attempt to break free from the Empire, the agreement encouraged the consumption of American-brewed beer and goods, rather than the highly taxes imported goods. Boycotting English imports was effective and was the kick-start America needed to create a booming beer industry. One of Washington's favorite beers was a Porter, brewed by an English brewer (politician and social elite extraordinaire) named Robert Hare. Washington always demanded that there be an "ample supply" on hand at Mount Vernon, his Virgina estate. However, it was not the term Porter that Washington had wrote a historical recipe for, but what he referred to as a "Small Beer".

"To Make Small Beer:

Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. -- Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Molasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask -- leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working -- Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed."

 Preserved in the manuscript collections of the New York Public Library is a notebook kept by Washington. 




Many home brewers have attempted to follow the recipe exactly, but admit their creations were, "positively revolting" or "molasses flavored beer".  Following this recipe precisely would have yielded an 11% ABV beer, which would be a full bodied, very sweet and malty ale, balancing a burnt coffee bitter finish. Here is one of several breweries that has taken to the challenge, and with a couple alterations, has had quite the success with this historical recipe.

Yards Brewing Company's General Washington Tavern Porter. (Revolution Series, 7% ABV) Based on the ale Washington had brewed for his field officers, this Porter is kettle brewed over a direct gas flame. This method causes the ale to boil rigorously, helping to create the rich flavor Washington loved. A clean and mild aroma of roasted malts set you up for the real thing. The taste is rich and smooth, some chocolate and graininess, with hints of fruit and coffee. A nice round mouth feel, that finishes with a slight hop flavor. Yards new brewery is now located just blocks away from the site of Robert Hare's brewery, where Washington's favorite Porter was crafted. A truly historical beer and place!


 Other breweries, continue to make classic English Porters that I'm sure our Founding Father would have enjoyed (American made, or not). Here is one of my favorite classic Porters, that holds true to the real definition of a Porter.

St. Peter's Old-Style Porter (Year-round, 5.1% ABV) This is a true Porter Style. A Porter is technically a mix between three different styles: an old ale (stale or soured), a new ale (brown ale or pale ale) and a weak ale (mild ale). This creates a full bodied ale with a complexity that satisfies a variety of palates. This ale specifically has aromas that are sweet like toffee with hints of roasty malt. A good balance between hints of sweet chocolate, caramel and roasted malt. Very smooth and creamy, with a quick finish that runs away from your tongue. A very drinkable beer, that might make you cut down your cherry tree! (Buy this beer online here!)

Porter today is a category on it's own with several subcategories and varying styles within. Finding a Porter you enjoy will be a fun adventure that makes you feel like a true Patriot. For now, I will leave you with some wise words from some of our past presidents. Happy Presidents Day!


"I have often wanted to drown my troubles, but I can't get my wife to go swimming." - Jimmy Carter

“There's nothing left…but to get drunk.” - Franklin Pierce after losing the Democratic nomination

“I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.” - George W. Bush

“Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.” - Lyndon B. Johnson

"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" - Ronald Reagan
 
"I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn't like it. I didn't inhale and never tried it again." - Bill Clinton
  
"Look, when I was a kid, I inhaled frequently. That was the point." - Barack Obama

Cheers!

Friday, February 18, 2011

YOUR CHILDHOOD CEREAL, IN A PINT.

     When I was in elementary school I realized that there were two kinds of people in this world, those who ate healthy breakfast cereal and those ate eat sugary breakfast cereal. Those who ate the healthy breakfast cereal would humbly support why they did so with reasonable facts, and those who did not, were found throwing rocks at the basketball hoops during recess. I am glad my parents raised me on the latter (points to arm muscle). Either way, by now most people should be familiar with the flavors of popular cereal brands. Throughout the years I have tried beers with flavors that brought me back to my childhood cereal bowl. Here are some of my favorite cereal flavors, in beer form.


Leinenkugels Sunset Wheat (Year-round, 4.9% ABV) Tastes like, Post's Fruity Pebbles. This beer might as well advertise being brewed by the Flintstones. This beer has an underground popularity for it's similarity to Fruity Pebbles, but you won't find any of our favorite characters from Bedrock on the label. Brewed in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, this beer is brought to us by the 7th oldest brewery in the United States. This "sunset in a glass" has the expectant aromas of coriander, orange peel and wheat, which are a precise indicator of it's taste. The flavors from the wheat and pale malts come through first, followed by marmalade and yeast. A smoothly unoffensive Witbier that will have you aching for summer, if not your childhood.

Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager (Early spring, 4.2% ABV) Tastes like, Cap'n Crunch Crunch Berries. I was so excited the first time I tried this beer. Not only has it opened my eyes towards other fruit infused ales, but it tastes like my Cap'ns favorite cereal. Abita uses real Louisiana strawberries that are picked late in the season, when they are the sweetest (and I am very thankful they do!) No artificial taste in this brew, just an aroma of strawberry fields as you sip away. The good amount of carbonation increases the body of this light lager, making it creamier and delicious. In the short time this beer has been around it has gained quite the reputation, so snag it while you can!

Southampton Publick House Imperial Porter (Winter, 7.2% ABV) Tastes like, GM Cocoa Puffs. You are bound to go Coo Coo for this Porter. Southampton brewed this Baltic-style Porter keeping in mind the old styles of Great Britain and Eastern Europe in the late 18th - 19th century. Back then, they were known for ales that were strong in alcohol and rich in flavor (and taking down the Holy Roman Empire). This velvety smooth porter has rich notes of chocolate, caramel and dark fruit. The alcohol hides well with this one with flavors of molasses, dark malts, a slight tartness with hints of coffee at the end. This beer is dangerously drinkable and could be a great substitute for milk in the morning. (And if you're near Long Island, check out Southampton Publick House, it's the only Microbrewery/Restaurant on the East End of the Island!)


     Not only are there beers that taste like your favorite cereals, but there are beers that are actually brewed with them. You can check out one guys experiment here, as well as find dozens and dozens of other examples on your own. If you think beer and cereal should be separate, well then you were obviously one of those twig eatin' breakfast kids. Try brewing a batch of cereal beer on your own, whatever the outcome, be proud of your own boozy creation. Enjoy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

THE PERFECT PAIR FOR V-DAY


        The history of Valentines Day is like the invention of beer, it’s hard to pinpoint when and where it started.  The name Saint Valentine was the name given to several martyred saints of ancient Rome. We know very little about the Saint Valentine we celebrate for each year, other than that he was buried on February 14th. We can find him buried along the Via Flaminia, an ancient road leading to Rome from the North. Pope Gelasius I established this celebratory day in 496 AD, but I have a feeling we celebrate a bit differently then he had planned (proof). You may be wondering what this has to do with beer. Nothing. So let’s hop to it! If you are going to be eating some chocolaty sweets tonight, here are two of my favorite beers to help balance your palate, as well as your heart.

Dogfish Heads World Wide Stout (Limited, 18% ABV) If you’re enjoying milk chocolate, caramel, or anything sweet, your best bet is to pair it with a roasted malt beer. The contrast will encourage you to go back and forth between sips and bites. Since it’s creation, the World Wide Stout has fluctuated in ABV, going from 23% to 18%, but I don’t think anyone is complaining with an ABV of 18%, especially when it’s as smooth as this one. The aromas of coffee, sweet malt and raisins do a great job at letting you know what this brew is going to taste like. The taste is smooth with flavors of fruit, coffee, sweet malt and alcohol. The body is thinner than expected and finishes dry, with hints of plum. You could forget the chocolate with this one, because this is a fine dessert on it’s own.

Duvel Moortgat Brewery’s Maredsous 8 Brune (Year-round, 8% ABV) In 1963, Moortgat created the Maredsous line of beers, including the Blonde, the Brune (Brown) and the Triple. The brown ale is brewed in the style of an Abbey Dubbel under the supervision of the monastic community of Maredsous. This is the ideal beer to pair with a fruity/tangy chocolate, or even just fruit (if your like that). Maredsous 8 should be served between 42-47 degrees Fahrenheit in order to fully enjoy the flavors they worked so hard to create. Maredsous 8 has a complex aroma of rich dark fruit, toffee and brown sugar. A heavy to medium body with flavors of berries, bready yeast, pepper, spices and alcohol.  A very smooth and drinkable dubbel that is hard to top (maybe because it's top fermented?). If you can only find it in an 11.2 oz bottle, get two, because your heart will ache for another.

When it comes to pairing your beers with any food, always consider whether or not you want to balance out the flavors or a compliment them. When aiming to balance, try a beer with flavor that is opposite to what you’re eating. For instance, if you’re eating something sweet, drink something that is dry or bitter (or vice versa). If you want your flavors to compliment one another, try a beer that is similar in flavor and body to what you are eating, like how a malty ginger beer would go great with a ginger spiced truffle, creating a potent mix of flavors that blend perfectly.

Whatever your blending may be, pick something that brings out the best in one another. Because that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.