Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bridgeport Supris

This week Marsha and I got to taste the new Bridgeport Supris on tap at No Anchovies. I am definitely looking forward to many more as the weather warms. I brought home a couple of bottles on Friday night that didn't last the weekend in our fridge.

When I had it at NA, I couldn't quite place the flavor, or for that matter, the style. It's light and fairly sweet, with hints of citrus and pineapple. Not too much grain or hops, but enough that you still know it's beer. Kind of an estery background, like a hefe, but less so.

A lemon slice was offered, but I found it completely unnecessary.

Further reading (see link below) indicates that Bridgeport is experimenting with a Belgian yeast strain cultured from an unspecified bottle brought back to the States, and that this is the result (which would explain the fruity character of the beer). I found this especially interesting, as I recently learned that Duvel (one of the great beers of Belgium) is the product of Belgium brewers cultivating the yeast from a Scottish import.

One of the many things I love about beer--there's always a story behind it.
More info at Portland Beer Blog.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Lune de Miel

As promised, here's the recipe for my latest from the home brewery.

Lune de Miel
(a Belgian-style spiced ale)

3 lbs plain pale malt extract (Munton's)
1 lb plain amber malt extract (Munton's)
1/2 lb 20L crystal
1/4 lb Belgian biscuit
1/4 lb Belgian caravienne
2 oz Czech Saaz (3.0% alpha)
2 oz German Hersbrucker (3.2% alpha)
1 lb clear (0L) Belgian candi sugar
~6 oz 73% milk-free dark chocolate (I used Trader Joe's brand)
0.75 oz cardamom seed
0.5 oz coriander seed
White Labs Trappist Yeast (WL500)

1. Steep grains 30 min at 150F in ~2 gallons
2. Sparge and bring to a boil; add extract, candi sugar, and chocolate; resume boil
3. In the boil: 60 min w/ 1.5 oz Saaz, 30 min w/ 1 oz Hersbrucker and all the cardamom and coriander (spices coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle and added in a hop bag), 15 min w/ 1 oz Hersbrucker and 0.5 oz Saaz.
4. Cool and dilute to ~4.5 gallons (1.052 SG) and pitch yeast.

This batch was fermented at about 70F ambient temperature. It was moved to secondary on day 9, and bottled on day 14. Final gravity at bottling was 1.007, for 6.2% ABV.

First tastes (4 tasters) were unanimously positive. Light and spicy with citrus overtones. The chocolate seems relegated to the background at this point, and the cardamom leaves the slightest of tingles in your mouth. We'll see how it ages.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beer wholesalers: it's all about the children

Jay Brooks goes off in response to a press release from the National Beer Wholesalers Association re a response to the Surgeon General's request for a position on underage drinking. (Got all that? I'm trying to be concise here.)

The section of the press release that got his (and my) blood pumping:

... the states’ ability to effectively restrict the sale and distribution of alcohol is the key to keeping beverage alcohol out of the hands of our youth.

Effective state regulation is under increasing attack as various economic interests attempt to deregulate alcohol and otherwise weaken the states’ abilities to strictly control alcohol sales. As a result, some states have been forced to open their borders to Internet sales of all alcohol beverages. Such anonymous access presents a major challenge to the states’ fight against underage drinking, as consumers receive deliveries from out-of-state sellers who can not be effectively regulated by the state.

Indeed, in a study released last year, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that 10 percent of all minors have actually obtained alcohol over the Internet. [emphasis added]

Did you get that? Never mind the string of shaky premises at work here (including, but certainly not limited to, the very absurdity of setting the drinking age 3 years beyond the age at which one can be conscripted and--in some states--executed, that "underage drinking" is a "health problem" rather than a "consequence of a policy decision", or that an association of businesses that don't even sell to the general public ought to be weighing in on this matter at all), the NBWA is actually taking the position that internet sales are the greatest challenge to keeping underage "kids" from getting their hot little hands on alcohol.

OK, folks. Project yourself back in time to being, say, 19 years old. You want to drink. Which seems the path of least resistance?

A) Go to a party where the booze has already been purchased.
B) Get your slightly older friend/sibling/significant other to go buy something for you.
C) Go the bar where your friend works and won't ID you.
D) Go to the bar where nobody gets ID'd
E) Get a fake ID
F) Sign up for the Beer of the Month Club, which will require 1) the credit card of someone of age (i.e., not you), 2) that the credit card be tied to an address at which you can receive your monthly delivery, 3) that the courier company not have its own policies in place about checking ID when they deliver alcohol (which DHL certainly does, I can tell you--more on that in a moment), and 4) that you pay, after S&H, just over $3 per beer for 12 beers. A month.

If you answered, oh, pretty much anything other than F, you win the prize. It's a beer. That I will have shipped to you once I have conducted a complete background check and collected a urine sample.

As a semi-relevant aside, I recently canceled my subscription to a beer of the month club because the deliveries were such a hassle. Because they wouldn't deliver it to my house when no one was there (and my wife and I having the odd habit of working during the day), I had to have it delivered to work. I didn't get ID'd or anything when it came, but it was a pain in the ass to lug it home. Kind of defeats the purpose of having it "delivered", you know? Anyway, if it's that much of a hassle for someone who's been legal for the better part of a decade, I can't imagine that this is a common tactic among the "kids" these days.

And that 10% figure is just beyond ridiculous. (Jay does the math in his post.)

Jay says quite a lot about all of this, too. The best part:

I confess I’m really quite tired of giving up my rights as an adult so that children will be protected. Not only does it not ever work, but we should not be willing to create a society that’s fit only for kids on the off chance that a child will have access to something we’ve decided he shouldn’t see, or hear or taste. There’s already a mechanism in place to combat those problems and it’s worked pretty well for millenia — it’s called parenting. I’m an adult. I want to live in an adult world. I don’t want anybody telling me or my child what’s good and what’s bad for him. That’s my job.

That the NBWA is attempting to use this opportunity to squash some serious competition for its members is really not that big of a deal. They're acting in their perceived self interest, and that's ultimately their job. Fine.

What bothers me is that the government actually tends to take this sort of advice seriously.

More Beer Food

NPR has a piece on cooking with beer today that includes an easy recipe for Belgian carbonnade of beef. I think I will try to make it in the very near future.

In other news, the chocolate cardomom ale is in the bottles and tastes very promising coming out of the secondary. Recipe is forthcoming...

Monday, March 13, 2006

"We thought we were in heaven"

You know, if this is an example of the universal benefits offered under a Scandanavian-style welfare state, I could maybe be convinced about the merits of socialism.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Beer Cheese Soup

I've been meaning to write about "beer food" for a while now. That is, either food made with beer, or food that goes really well with beer. Ideally, both.

Anyway, it's raining buckets here in the Old Pueblo this evening, which prompted a pretty serious craving for comfort food. After poking around a bit for beer cheese soup recipes, I came up with the following. At the risk of being completely immodest, it kicks ass.

For 2 quarts:

1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp dry mustard
8 cups chicken broth
12 oz beer (I used my Christmas Caramale, but I think any full-flavored, moderately hopped ale will do.)
4 oz shredded swiss cheese
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
pinches of nutmeg and cayenne, to taste

4-5 broccoli crowns per bowl

1. Saute the vegetables with salt and pepper in the butter until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a food processor and puree. Set aside. Reserve the butter in the pot.

2. Make a roux with the butter, flour, and mustard for a couple of minutes (I use low heat to keep from browning the flour.) Whisk in the chicken broth about 1 cup at a time, bringing it to a boil on high heat. Let it boil for about 10 minutes, stirring periodically.

3. Add the vegetable puree, beer, and cheese, stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Let it simmer for at least 15 minutes on low heat (longer is OK). Correct seasoning with salt, pepper, and (if desired) cayenne and nutmeg.

4. For more texture (and nutrition), steam the broccoli crowns just before serving. Place them in the bowl and ladle the soup on top.

Enjoy with the beverage of your choosing. Tonight I had a Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale, which was excellent.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Brick Store Pub, Decatur, GA

I was back in Atlanta this past weekend. After watching the Thrashers beat the Capitols in OT, Chris and his wife Stephanie took me to the Brick Store, right on the courthouse square in Decatur.

The pub has actually been there for a while (since '97), but the recent repeal of Georgia's insane 6% beer law has paved the way for the addition of a "Belgian Bar" upstairs.

Oh. My. I'm ready to move back, I think.

The Belgian Bar at the Brick Store boasts a rotation of eight Belgian and Belgian-style beers on tap, and another 40 or so in bottles. If you're reading this blog, you don't really need me to say much more than that to tell you why any visit to Atlanta must include a trip to this little slice of heaven. It's worth pointing out, however, that they include cellared beers (at a premium price, naturally) and are so fastidious about proper glassware that they will not serve a beer if they don't have the appropriate glass available.

I had a St. Bernardus Abt 12 and a La Chouffe, both from the tap. Both every bit as good as what I got when I went here.