Friday, December 21, 2007

Are You Experienced?
or The Best Name For A Beer Ever

Wisconsin Belgian Red

So I'm lucky enough to have several close relatives that live in Wisconsin. My father is from Wisconsin. This is especially lucky because New Glarus Brewing Company, one of the best breweries in the midwest in my humble opinion, is only available in - you guessed it - Wisconsin. Dammit!

I've had their Wisconsin Belgian Red, which is a hell of a beer. They describe the style as a "Wisconsin Cherry Ale," who knew? Its a wonderful fruit beer that truly tastes like fresh summer cherries. Tart and sweet, tannic and dry, this ale is not the cloyingly sweet Kool-Aid that we are sometimes used to getting with fruit beer here in the states. They call it "a marriage of wine and beer." This beer is brewed with whole Door County (where I used to swim in the summertime) Montmorency Cherries, Wisconsin Farmed Wheat and Belgian Roasted Barleys. This beer is then cold cellared in oak tanks for one full year. If you have a chance to try this beer, do so.

Now then, on to the topic of this blog which is the Best Name For A Beer Ever. A few times a year, NGBC will cut their brewmaster and co-owner Daniel Carey loose to brew whatever he chooses, crazy, unfettered and free. Always handcrafted, these beers are very limited editions with no promises of ever being brewed again. Right now, one of those beers is one named Smoke on the Porter. Yes! Isn't that awesome? Can't you just hear Deep Purple now?

Smoke on the PorterHere's what the brewery says about this beer. "Smoke on the Porter began with our neighbors at Hoesly's Meats. Their smoke house aromas waft through our door creating a special kind of decadence that must be shared. Wisconsin barleys were generously cold smoked with apple wood by the Hoesly family. Brewmaster Dan then harnessed dark malts smoked in Bamberg to create a team that steps out as a creamy smooth black brew that will forever linger in your mind as Smoke on the Porter."

This beer is creamy and smooth. Beer Advocate magazine says, "...the malt really shines with a soft cake-like sweetness within. Suggestions of dark roasted coffee and bitter dark chocolate come to mind.... No doubt, the balance of this smoked porter is unsurpassed."

So toast life with beer from the land of Wisconsin.

Did I mention that The New Glarus Brewing Company is located in and named after the quaint town of New Glarus, Wisconsin? New Glarus is known as "America's Little Switzerland," a fact that is evident the minute you drive into town. You feel like you stepped back in time a hundred years to a small town in Switzerland. The Brewery is just one of many unique businesses in New Glarus. There are also antique stores, meat markets, two museums, an authentic Swiss bakery and a fine array of restaurants with authentic Swiss cuisine. In fact, my family and I used to make the treck from Madison, WI for schnitzel and noodles! For more information on New Glarus and its local business, visit the New Glarus Chamber of Commerce at

Also, I thought that this would be a good time to announce that my fantasy football team, Testeverdes Settatesties, is in the Superbowl. (I'm playing the person who introduced me to New Glarus Brewing Co. - But I will still beat him down.)

And also, Go Packers!

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Session: Winter Beers

So I finally have it together enough to participate in this month's "The Session," which has been deemed as "a monthly virtual beer tasting. Hosted by a different blogger each month, and each month has a different theme chosen by the host." I've kept my eye on it over the last few months and have really enjoyed the exchange and some of the brilliant beers. This month is about Winter Beers, and since I had just written about them, I thought that I would include The Session in this post.

So my fellow chicks, I should tell you, if you haven't found out by now, that there are certain beers which are only brewed for the Winter season. These beers run the gamut in flavor, but a lot of them are spicy, malty, piney and a little higher in the alcohol content department: all things that you know this beer chick likes. So, without too much more ado, here are some of my favorite holiday seasonal beers or beers that are great as special holiday treats and gifts!

Samichlaus Bier - originally brewed by Hurlimann Brewery
Rheinfelden, Switzerland
Want a little warming up on a cold winter night? Only want to have one seasonal ale? This one is it. Samichlaus ("Santa Claus" in Swiss-German dialect) is brewed every year on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day. The delicious lager is then matured an entire year before being released the following December. At 14% alcohol by volume, this beer was once the world's strongest lager and has been listed in The Guinness Book of Records. But don't shy away. Samichlaus has a smooth creaminess with brandy, cherry flavors and spice. Yum.
Pairs With: Rich and roasted foods, duck, pork and cured meats.
Try it with German chocolate cake or rum tart.
Glassware: Specialty Samichlaus Glass or Small Tulip or Snifter

Craftsman Holiday Spruce - Pasadena, CA
This Winter warmer has an unbeatable balance...but its a big balance, the aroma is a mix of fruit and sweet spice. One detects cinnamon, allspice, and really delicious orange and orange peel notes in the flavor. Then the maltiness hits you with distinct fruitiness. I get apples and old world fruit like raisins and figs. Then the beer rounds out with nice spiciness and dryness provided by the FRESH SPRUCE TIPS that Craftsman uses in the brewing of this beer. Does anything say Winter more?
Pairs With: I served this beer last night at a beer dinner and it paired amazingly well with a bite of marinated beets and goat cheese with a rosemary pesto. Forget about it.
Glassware: Teardrop

Anchor Christmas - San Francisco, California
Famous for its Steam Beer, Anchor Brewing's Christmas Ale or "Our Special Ale" has been a west coast tradition since it was first brewed in 1975. Available only from Thanksgiving to New Years, this ale's recipe is different every single year and it is kept top secret. Since ancient times trees have symbolized the winter solstice. So every year this beer bottle label features a different tree. Because of the special limited ale inside and the special label, Anchor Christmas is very collectable. There are people who claim to have a bottle from every year. This is a great beer to drink at a holiday party or to bring as a gift. Besides regular 12 oz. bottles, this beer is sold in magnums: a big unique one of a kind present.
Pair with: This beer is different every year. The style will determine what it pairs with.
Glassware: American Shaker Pint Glass

Deus Brut de Flandres - Brouwerij Bosteels - Buggenhout, Belgium
This beer isn't necessarily a winter ale, but if you want to bring a fabulous gift that nobody other than a beer aficionado would know, or you want something special to lift for that holiday toast, the Deus Brut des Flandres is the way to go. This divine drink combines the best of two production methods. Using techniques developed over centuries of brewing, first the beer is brewed in Belgium, then the ale is matured and refined in the champagne region of France, using ancestral Champagne making techniques. This beer makes me want to celebrate.
Pair with: Deus makes an excellent aperitif (before food) or digestive (after food). Its also great with desserts.
Glassware: Flute

Deschutes Jubelale & Cindercone Red Ale - Bend, Oregon
Hailing from the Northwest US brewing mecca, Jubelale calls itself an "apres ski brew." Perfect for a gathering of family and friends, Jubelale is a strong festive ale characterized by a large malty body balanced with hop bitterness. Jubelale is available around the first of October. Cindercone Red Ale is another great seasonal ale from Deschutes. This beer is great for the new year as it is available January through April.
Pair with: Jubelale - Big intense dishes, roasted beef, lamb or game.
Cindercone Red Ale - Chicken, seafood, burgers; great with spicy food.
Glassware: Pint Glass

Unibroue Quelque Chose - Chambly, Quebec
This is really cool. Quelque Chose is strong cherry ale that is to be consumed hot! It's amazing sitting by the fire, winding up the evening, a perfect after dinner drink. This beer tastes like a warm sweet and tart cherry cider. "Quelque Chose" is a popular French-Canadian expression that is used like "That's something!"
Pair with: Strong cheeses and chocolate desserts.
Glassware: Stemmed Large Tulip Glass

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hoppy Holidays - Celebrate With Beer

The holiday season is upon us, and inevitably that means it's time to either attend or host a litany of holiday parties. Parties that, for years, have featured the same turkey roll-ups and re-gifted bottles of "two buck Chuck." This year why not do something a little different? Have you ever considered beer? Yes, I said it: the beautiful malt beverage that is beer.

The new level of craft beer brewing around the world is revolutionizing the way we view and drink beer. These artisanal ales are starting to show up on beer lists of some of the most prestigious and cutting edge restaurants in the world. These restaurants are focusing on food and beer pairings the same way that a sommelier would pair wine with food.

Holiday beers have become the rage over that last couple of years and microbrews and imported specialty beers are becoming more readily available to the public. "Beer Dinners" are popping up around the United States the same way that wine-tasting parties did five years ago. People are educating themselves on how beer pairs with food and how to celebrate with what are truly some of the greatest beers in the world.

As the holidays approach, why not have a truly unique experience with a beverage that can enhance food in a way that wine simply can't? Beer is a beverage that allows for more casual and easy going fun and experimentation without the stilted snobbery that, unfortunately, sometimes comes along with wine.

How To Throw a Beer Dinner:

Do Your Research:
Nowadays, the best place to find artisanal and craft beers are at high-end specialty wine shops. Give your local wine shop a call and check it out. See what's available and build your holiday food menu around the beer. Find out where you can buy craft and artisanal beers in your area. For example, one of my favorite brewers is Craftsman Brewing Company out of Pasadena, CA. They only distribute to bars that are local to the Los Angeles area, but you can buy a keg from them directly. Another one of my favorite breweries is called Three Floyds Brewing out of Munster, Indiana. They have a very limited distribution area as well, and I can't get the beer in California. Your local wine shop will be able to point you in the right direction and give you alternatives for beers that you might not be able to get.

Think Of Pairings:
Once you've picked out the beers that you like, study them. What kind of style of beer are they and what kinds of foods pair well with them? Go to the Brewers Association online ( and get recommendations for pairings. For instance, the BA says that: "a floral blonde ale is great with seared Ahi tuna. Hoppy (bitter) American pale ale can balance the richness of appetizers such as cheese tartlets. For lighter items such as grilled fish, a Pilsner is great. For roasted chicken, a malty lager or a pale ale can be delightful. Chocolate loves a dark beer. Super-sweet items such as cheesecake, creme brulee or carrot cake can create a memorable experience with highly hopped beers such as double IPAs. Beer's bright carbonation, especially medium-intensity beers suit many cheeses. Fruit beers are excellent with soft-ripened cheese such as Brie."

Set the Stage:
According to the Brewers Association, beer tastes best at a certain temperature, and it's probably warmer than you think. Serving a beer too cold inhibits flavor receptors and thus masks the true nuance of many styles of beer. Serve the beer too warm and beer, especially holiday ales which are generally sweeter, can be perceived as too syrupy. As a rule, take the beer out of the fridge about 5 minutes before you want to serve it. It will warm up to the correct temperature as you drink it.

Glassware is also very important. Not only does the proper glassware show off the beautiful color and frothy head of the beer; like the difference in a pinot noir glass vs. a cabernet sauvignon glass, each glass shape helps pinpoint where on the tongue the drinker will taste the beer and helps focus the aroma. The shape of glassware also regulates at what rate that particular beer will de-gas. Carbonation helps balance a beer so the rate at which it is released is a very important flavor factor. Most European beer styles have their own traditional glassware shape. They can range from tulip shaped, a handled stein, a flute, a chalice, a pint glass and many more. If you have questions about what glassware works with what beer style, go to