Tag Archives: beer

Saturday Dinner: Chocolate Stout Braised Short Ribs

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Cold weather is settling in, so we turn our hymnals to those slow-cooked, warm-you-from-the-inside-out recipes that fuel us during the fall and winter. The type of recipe that you start at 1 or 2 p.m. and let roll until 5 or 6 p.m. The type of recipe that involves braising. The first thing I toss in the braising pan each fall are short ribs, simply because they are so good and so easy to make. Sear them, cook the veg, toss in some liquid and move to the oven for the afternoon.

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The problem is that I like my short ribs with bones. The bone’s marrow adds a lot of flavor and richness to sauce and they are typically cheaper than the boneless variety. Yes, you spend more money to get the quantity of meat you want, but it’s worth it for the flavor. According to the moustached man in the Wegmans Fairmount meat department, they stopped getting short ribs with bones weeks ago. While grocers charge more for the boneless variety, Mr. Moustache told me that wholesalers can get more for the bone-in variety from restaurants, who like the bone for presentation purposes. So, instead of $7.49/lb., I was left with $9.99/lb. for meat that was once considered a throwaway cut of beef.

“I remember when we used to just grind short ribs for hamburger,” said Mr. Moustache. “Some joker went on TV, made them famous, and now we charge $10 a pound.”

He’s absolutely right.

Continue reading Saturday Dinner: Chocolate Stout Braised Short Ribs

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Ranking the 2014 Fall Beers

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Let’s have a chat about fall beers. First, I fall into the category of people that eschew the pumpkin/pumpkin spice fever that accompanies autumn. I don’t like the flavor, smell, texture or sight of pumpkins. The last time I carved a pumpkin was high school and I vomited from the scent and feel of the pumpkin innards. In the past, I relegated those who liked pumpkin to category anti-American, communists.

I’ve since moderated my views. For instance, I haven’t reported any pumpkin lovers to the FBI this year as Al-Qaeda or ISIS supporters. It’s a major breakthrough for me.

That said, fall beers typically come with the label of Octoberfest/Oktoberfest and are brewed in the tradition of a German Märzen. These beers are full-bodied, darker, malty beers with a dry finish. Spaten and Samuel Adams probably make the best-known and best-selling versions of these.

Some breweries will also put out a special edition imperial red ale during this time of year. These are intensely hoppy ales taking their color from red malts or caramelization that occurs during the fermentation process.

I’ve worked hard (ha!) to consume as many fall beers as I can. This, dear reader, is my ranking of the 2014 fall beers… Continue reading Ranking the 2014 Fall Beers

Ranking the 2014 Shandy Beers

Beer trends don’t just come and go like other foods. They take time to pick up momentum before reaching critical mass. Look at the IPA movement of the 1990s and 2000s. Finding an IPA was once a tough thing to do. Now, every brewery makes one and the challenge has shifted to finding a good IPA.

Or Belgian-style white ales, for instance. A lot of breweries made witbiers, but it was not until MolsonCoors-owned Blue Moon came into the market that it became wildly popular. Blue Moon isn’t the best witbier you can buy (Brewery Ommegang’s version might be the best I’ve ever had), but it’s smooth, tastes good and is wildly popular. Popular enough that Anheuser-Busch InBev jumped in and formed Shock Top.

The bottled Shandy is this new hotness. Leinenkugel began brewing its Summer Shandy in 2007, and it has become synonymous with its brand. Their version is a hefeweizen mixed with lemonade. I have friends who detest the stuff, comparing its lemon flavor to the smell of Mr. Clean. Up until the past couple of years, the SABMiller-owned Leinenkugel held the market on this rather niche style.

Utica-based Saranac came along in 2010 and introduced their lemonade-infused lager as their summer varietal. It became so popular that they spun it off into a standalone seasonal available each summer along with its summer varietal. Shock Top jumped in the game back in 2012 with its Lemon Shandy. And now? Everyone has a shandy.

So, what is a shandy actually?

It’s apparently Bavarian and dates to the early 1900s. The British, God love ’em, used shandies as a means of getting children to warm up to the flavor of beer. It’s great, really, as this is how I’ve warmed The Wife up to beers. Anyhow, shandy is a British word. Radler is the German word for the blend of beer and German lemonade, which is more like a soda than the still citrus drink we know. So, why radler:

Radler dates back at least as far as the “roaring 20s” when a German innkeeper named Franz Xaver Kugler is said to have stumbled onto the mixture. According to the German Beer Institute, Kugler built a bicycle path through the forest, from Munich right to his establishment, called Kugleram. The path worked – probably too well – and Kugler suddenly found himself inundated with some 13,000 bicycle riders on a warm day in June of 1922. Fearing that he was going to run out of suds and maybe have a riot on his hands, Kugler stretched his beer supply by mixing beer with a prodigious quantity of clear lemon soda he had left over from an earlier failed attempt to sell the thirst-quencher. Cutting the beer with the soda in a 50/50 ratio to create Radlermass (literally “cyclist liter of beer”), Kugler saved the day and avoided running out of beer. He even claimed credit for brainstorming the drink as a clever way to keep the riders sober for the ride home.

TL;DR?: Now that the big brewers have entered the market, it’s sure to get screwed up. Until then, it’s time to try them all out.

THE GOOD

  • Leinenkugel Summer Shandy: It’s a lemonade-flavored hefeweizen-style beer that I’ve been drinking the longest. It tips in at 4.2% ABV. It’s pleasant, smooth and enjoyable.
  • Traveler Brewing Company Curious Traveler: The Wife enjoyed this one, which surprises me because it was more like a beer with lemon juice rather than a balanced blend. The lemon tasted real and the beer was nice. Strange story. Traveler is made by Alchemy & Science, a project run by the founders of Magic Hat as an independently-operating subsidiary of The Boston Beer Company (owners of Samuel Adams). 4.4% ABV
  • Traveler Brewing Company Time Traveler: The same beer flavor as the Curious Traveler, but with sweet strawberries. It’s good, but if I’m going to drink a strawberry beer, I would rather go with the Abita Strawberry Harvest. Speaking of which, why is this a shandy and Abita a “fruit beer”? Enjoyable overall. 4.4% ABV.
  • Amstel Radler: The Heineken-owned flag released a radler-style this summer. It’s modeled after the German-style radler with a lot of carbonation and a very clean lemon taste. It’s pretty good, but really weak at 2.0% ABV.
  • Leinenkugel Orange Shandy: The orange tastes more like the oil from the rind then orange juice. I think they go back easily, but I know others who have been put off by the flavor. Eh. They can make their own list. 4.2% ABV.
  • Harpoon UFO Big Squeeze Shandy: This is one you cannot drink more than one or two of during a sitting. It has a big, sweet grapefruit flavor. The Wife, who doesn’t like grapefruit, scowled. I enjoyed it. It left me pining for this year’s Shiner Ruby Redbird release. 4.5% ABV.
  • Shock Top Lemon Shandy: The lemon tastes more authentic than any other entry in the category, but the beer is really weak. It sits on the line between good and bad.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

  • Samuel Adams Porch Rocker: It’s a Helles lager blended with lemon. At 4.5% ABV, it tastes rather syrupy. I was immediately put off after the first taste.
  • Leinenkugel Lemon Berry Shandy: This is disappointing given the label. The brewer uses blackberry juice to flavor the lemonade, which turns the flavor more towards cough syrup than, say, Lindemann’s Cassis or Kriek. It’s also 4.2%.
  • Dundee’s Shandy: I’m immediately biased because I don’t like Dundee’s beer. It’s dressed up Genny. Yes, I got through my junior year of college with the help of Dundee’s Honey Brown, but this shandy sits squarely on the line between bad and ugly. Also 4.2% ABV.

THE WRETCHED

  • Saranac Shandy: The lager-lemonade combo is even more syrupy than Sam Adams. The lemon tastes very fake, like they poured packets of Wyler’s into a vat of Karo syrup, mixed it, and then dumped it into the brewing tank. It’s 4.2%
  • Labatt Shandy: I thought that this would be tough to choke down. It wasn’t. It was worse.
  • Coors Light Summer Beer: It had all of the faint beer flavor of a Coors Light with all the phony nondescript citrus you might expect.

THE MISSING: Narragansett Del’s Shandy, Traveler Beer Illusive Traveler

Beer From Other States (or My In-Laws Are Better Than Your In-Laws Part II)

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Last year, I got a bright idea. The In-Laws were spending a month in Myrtle Beach and I thought maybe, just maybe, I could get them to bring some beer home for me. As a result, I got my hands on some R.J. Rocker’s Son of a Peach, New South Brewing White Ale and Sweetwater Blue, in addition to a sixer of Shiner White Hare Pale Ale.

They made a fatal mistake, though. They told me that they “had fun” hunting for the beer and that it gave them something to do on one of the rainy days that kept them off the beach. Fun? This is fun? Heh heh.

Now, rewind a couple of years. Before Shiner made its debut in Upstate America, I was hooked solidly on Shiner Bock. In need of a fix, I sent The Aunt out shopping while she was visiting friends in Bethany Beach, Md. She said that it gave her something to do on a rainy day and that she thought it was fun to walk in the stores and run the staff around looking for beer. She said that an old lady looking for beer is not something that they often see.

Another one who finds this stuff fun. Seriously, who goes on extended vacations and finds shopping for beer for their relatives fun? I’m not trying to bite the hand that feeds me, but I’m confused nonetheless. Continue reading Beer From Other States (or My In-Laws Are Better Than Your In-Laws Part II)

World of Beer, Syracuse, N.Y.

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Ultimately, the question I was seeking to answer on Sunday evening’s trip to DestinyUSA was this: With its great brewpubs, microbreweries and bars like Clark’s Ale House, J. Ryan’s and The Blue Tusk, does Syracuse really need the World of Beer?

And maybe the word need is the wrong one. This area certainly doesn’t need a bar. DestinyUSA doesn’t need another bar, not with Toby Keith’s Loud Country Music and Lousy Food Experience down the hall and the TGI Jack Daniels Grill Friday’s across the way.

Continue reading World of Beer, Syracuse, N.Y.

Ranking The Fall 2013 Seasonal Beers (Final)

Fall precedes summer as my favorite beer season. While I could drink kolsches — like Harpoon Summer Beer — all day long, the weight and flavor of an Oktoberfest märzen my favorite. And it seems everyone has an entry into this race.

And not all of them are good.

So, in the interests of research and as a public service to you, dear reader, I’m working my way through the fall beers available at my local (Upstate NY) grocers and beer purveyors.

(Note: Spaten Oktoberfest is usually in a class by itself and transcends mere lists. Only problem is that I cannot find it this year.)

  1. Left Hand Brewing Company Oktoberfest lager (right). Malty start with a hoppy finish. Smooth. Spicy. The type of beer you could drink all night. Almost perfect. (6.6% ABV)
  2. Great Lakes Oktoberfest lager. They dominate fall and winter. I can’t wait for the Christmas Ale. (6.5% ABV)
  3. Breckenridge Brewery Autumn Ale. A brilliant, smooth ale with a rich malty flavor. (6.7% ABV)
  4. Brewery Ommegang Scythe & Sickle ale. Just a damn good ale. Toasty, malty, hoppy and (most importantly) well balanced. (5.5% ABV)
  5. Southern Tier Brewing Company Harvest Ale. STBC continues its run as Chautauqua County’s only noteworthy export. Just a solidly consistent beer in terms of flavor, color, and hops. (6.7% ABV)
  6. Great Lakes Nosferatu imperial red ale. A 70 IBU might scare you off, but it’s no worse than an IPA. It has big flavor and attitude. It lets you know that it’s in charge and keeps you going back for more in that “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” way. (6.4% ABV)
  7. Southern Tier Brewing Company 2XRye. I like ryes, particularly Sierra Nevada‘s and Great South Bay‘s rye beers. I would actually rather drink this than straight IPAs. This is notable. (8.1% ABV)
  8. Sierra Nevada Tumbler ale. Brown ale with a nice smoky, toasty flavor. Good malt body. Enjoyable. Better than the 2012 offering. (5.5% ABV)
  9. Samuel Adams Octoberfest lager. Familiar. Balanced. The 2012 version was better. (6.7% ABV)
  10. Abita Pecan Harvest ale. Somewhere between a pale and brown ale. Subtle nutty flavor found in the aftertaste. I was hoping for something slightly more pronounced. (5.1% ABV)
  11. Leinenkugel Hoppin’ Helles lager. A nice, light malty lager with a little zest of citrus on the backend. I didn’t think I would enjoy it. I was wrong. Again. Very surprised that something advertising a blend of five hops has only a 27 IBU. (5.5% ABV)
  12. Goose Island Harvest Ale. So much better than their Oktoberfest. Just a smooth, enjoyable pub ale with a nice malty finish. (5.6% ABV)
  13. Narragansett Fest lager. Very good. Nice malty flavor. (5.5% ABV)
  14. Peak Brewing Organic Fall Summit Ale. Ordinary. Nothing special. (5.7% ABV)
  15. Sierra Nevada Flipside Red IPA. Boring. Ordinary. It’s a red IPA. Yawn. (6.2% ABV)
  16. Otter Creek Oktoberfest lager. Tasteless lager with with a slight citrusy finish. Unimpressive. (4.8% ABV, according to Untappd)
  17. Harpoon Grateful Harvest Ale. Bitter, but not because of cranberry or hops. The former was virtually nonexistent. Just not enjoyable by any stretch of the imagination.
  18. Harpoon Octoberfest lager. Boring. Lifeless. The perfect body but nothing going on. It reminds me of a few girls that I knew in college. (5.3% ABV)
  19. Goose Island Oktoberfest lager. Tasted like a diluted bock. Very disappointing considering the price and reputation. (Who cares)
  20. JosephsBrau Oktoberfest lager. Garbage. Undrinkable. The malty flavor was like an afterthought. Tasted like cheap beer. Rumor is that this private-label Trader Joe’s offering is brewed by Gordon Biersch, which is even more disappointing. (ABV unpublished)

Never found: Founders Harvest, Sixpoint Autumnation, Magic Hat Seance.

Wednesday Dinner: Beer Braised Chicken Thighs

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Sometimes when I go shopping, I will grab a package of meat (heh heh) with absolutely no plan. Typically, I do this with chicken thighs. They’re easy to cook, versatile and taste good no matter what you do to them.

I was gathering my stuff — glasses, wallet, iPhone, lunch container — to go home when it occurred to me that I had no idea what I was going to do with dinner. I went through the mental list of ingredient possibilities:

Grocery list: July 21, 2013 (or Vacation Over)

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REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE

More on the end of this vacation at a later time. I’m actually writing this on Saturday, as I am currently driving back from Rehoboth Beach, Del. My hope is that, when this item posts, we will be in Pennsylvania. I’m not particularly hopeful. The Kid’s sleeping has been erratic, at best, this week. She peaked on Tuesday by sleeping past 8 a.m. On Friday, she got back in the early moments of 6 a.m. Saturday? 5:30.

Naturally, this means that The Wife will have to wake her tomorrow. I’d like to get up and go or, at the very least, get up, be impatient, pack the car, pace around nervously, go, get gas and start driving. The six-hour ride will take us seven, easy. There will be frequent potty stops and I’m trying to time one around Trader Joe’s in Media, Pa.

Again, I’m not optimistic.

Today is the last full day of vacation here, which means that it was time to beer shop. As my southbound relatives and friends know, out-of-state travel means out-of-state beer for me. My $167 trip to Atlantic Liquors (tagline: The Greatest Liquor Store In The World) yielded:

  • a case and a 12-pack of Shiner Bock…the 12 is for me; the case for the husband of a former co-worker
  • a case of New Albion ale for my next door neighbor
  • two 30s of Schaefer and two 12s of Schlitz for my brother-in-law
  • a mixed case of sixes for me, including some Shiner, Yards Brewing, and 21st Amendment ales

This is about double what I hauled home last year. Got to love tax-free liquor and beer.

There will be content this week, probably starting tomorrow with reviews of some of our restaurant trips. As for the grocery list…oh, who knows? We’ll get some milk and yogurt. That’ll be enough for a day or two.