Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I am a huge supporter of the new movement to put quality beer into cans. There is something really satisfying about drinking a really good beer out of a can. To me, it seems like the final hurdle to erase that dark period in American history where there were no small local breweries, beer was only golden and filled with adjuncts. Even the most geeky of beer snobs has to agree that a cold Bitburger tall boy on a hot day hits the spot. There have always been some decent imports that come in a can, but until very recently finding an American beer in a can worth drinking was a tall order. I was surprised that in the enviro-friendly Seattle area (the trouncing of the grocery bag tax aside) that no one was putting beer in cans. They are impervious to light, they chill faster, they are lighter to carry (ideal for camping, rafting, etc..), and cans are 100% recyclable. Currently in Washington there are numerous obstacles for small breweries to put their beer in cans. "I would love to put our beer in cans," Baron Brewing owner/brewer Jeff Smiley told me, "in Germany everything comes in a can." Jeff went on to tell me that one of the biggest obstacles for small breweries to can is there is an enormous minimum order for cans printed with a breweries label. In Washington there is a mobile bottler who goes around to all the small breweries. Even the smallest nano-brewery can afford a nominal sum to put their beers in 22oz. bottles, and get their product on store shelves. No such service currently exists with cans. If there is a Washington entrepreneur out there with a lot of startup money, this would be a worthwhile venture. Every Seattle brewer that I have talked to loves the idea of great beer in cans, they simply do not have the means to do it.
In Ashland, Oregon, Caldera Brewing Co. has figured out a way. In 2005 they decided to commit to canned beer. Their production is still small enough that they are a microbrewery, although that could change soon when more people discover these great canned beers. The IPA is assertively hopped with Simcoe, Centennial, and Amarillo hops to give this IPA a nice citrusy bitterness with hints of tropical fruit, and just the right amount of malt to provide balance. At only 6.1% ABV it doesn't lay you out if you're hiking or canoeing, or just out at the bar. Hoppy, but not overpowering; exactly what I want in a solid NW IPA. I just love that whoosh when you open the can. It had been way to long since I heard that sound and didn't think, "Oh great I'm stuck at a party with lousy beer." Caldera has returned that excitement when I hear the whoosh! They also can the Pale Ale and the Amber, for the not so bitter folk.
Monday, September 7, 2009
I have been neglecting my blog of late in favor of other pursuits, but have decided to rededicate myself to Beer and Beyond. You can check out my somewhat more professional work at www.examiner.com
B&B will focus on beers that I love, promoting quality canned beer and growlers, and other fun stuff! I hope you enjoy the new B&B! Tim Nichols
Monday, June 29, 2009
I know, in the header to this blog I claim to be the Pied Piper of Washington beers, and so far no local beer reviews. I'm not ignoring my local beers, I just got a little distracted. When I saw the Lazy Boy IPA on the shelf, I saw my opportunity to get this blog back to its intent. Surprisingly, the first thing I noticed about this beer was the hints of caramel on the nose, and the dark copper color. Both of these characteristics would point towards a Pale Ale, not an IPA. It is a little maltier than most Washington IPA's, but there are loads of Cascade, Chinook and Amarillo hops in this 75 IBU gem from Everett, WA. I am not one of those guys who thinks the more hops the better in an IPA. I want an assertive pine and fir tree hop flavor, some malt balance, and I don't want the hops to wear out their welcome on my tongue. Shawn Loring's Lazy Boy IPA delivers on all of those counts. It's boldly hopped, but has still maintains a soft texture. Easy to pair with food, it stood up beautifully to a Bison burger with smoked Gouda, and fries with a smokey, fiery Sambal ketchup.
Monday, June 22, 2009
I have gladly sipped this beer in the middle of winter, but this soft golden/orange hued Abbey style Tripel cries out to be enjoyed during the summer. Clover honey and Meyer lemon are the initial flavors that stand out, followed by a subtle hoppiness. Tripel Karmeliet is made with a combination of wheat, barley, and oats. I don't think I would have picked out all three of these grains on my own, but it makes for a nice blend of dough, cereal, spice, effevescent carbonation, but remains accessible to the Belgian novice, and the hardcore beer geek. My wife used a little bit to steam a Maine lobster, with grilled zucchini, and rosemary roasted potatoes for my Father's Day dinner. It was perfect!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Serves about 4 people
3 slabs of bacon, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound baby yukon gold potatoes (new potatoes will also work great) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 pounds Manila clams
10 ounces Trade Route Ginger Pale Ale (any not so hoppy red/amber would work with fresh minced ginger added to it)
1 small fistful of flat leaf Italian Parsley, chopped
1/2 lemon, juice squeezed
1 small handful chive or green onion, diced
1 small pinch of sea salt
1. Add diced bacon to large soup/stock pot and cook on med. heat until bacon begins to crisp. Drain most of bacon fat from pot and remove bacon. Reserve about 1 Tbsp in pot, and return to burner.
2. Add potatoes and onion and let potatoes sit on the bottom of the pan until they brown. Add minced garlic and let cook for about 45 seconds, or until garlic becomes fragrant. Reintroduce the bacon to the pot.
3. Add Ginger Pale Ale, scraping the brown bits off of the bottom of the pot. Add clams in steamer basket on top of potatoes. Turn burner up to high and cover pot. Shake the clams after a few minutes to make sure they all cook evenly, and once they open up they're done!
4. Pour potatoes into a large bowl and clams on top. Garnish with parsley, fresh squeezed lemon juice, chives, and sea salt.
5. Serve w/ green salad and some good crusty bread to soak up the broth!
Recipe note: I used bacon because that's what I had on hand, but a Chinese Lapsang Souchong sausage broken up into small pieces would be ideal.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Pilsner History- The most widely produced style in the world is also one of the youngest. First brewed in 1842, in Pilsen Bohemia (now Czech Republic). The brewery is still around and is known as (yeah you guessed it) Pilsner Urquell. Urquell meaning, "original source". It was the first clear golden lager which was quite the novelty back then. Also around this time more beer was being consumed in glass, as opposed to the traditional ceramic steins which added to the appeal of this golden brew. Bohemia was part of the Austrian empire which was German speaking, and many German breweries were getting their hops and malts from Bohemia, so it was only natural for the style to spread to Germany and Austria, where it was all the rage (I guess we're not the only generation susceptible to novelty marketing). Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch were among the many German immigrants to bring this beer to America. Many of these immigrants settled in the Mid-West where variations flourished. The popularity of this style coincided with The Industrial Revolution, so this style could be made in large quantities at new giant production breweries. With mass production came shortcuts. Big American breweries began to add corn and rice to their beers to save money, and this style de-evolved into the watered down version American Lager that monopolized the beer market until the Micro/Craft Beer revolution in the 1980's.
In Washington State, the Friesian Pilsner from Leavenworth, and the LaConner Pilsner (when Arlen Harris was the head brewer) were the first Old World true Pilsners that I remember. If anyone can think of a great Washington Pilsner before those, I would love to hear about it. There are alot of outstanding Pilsners being made in Washington today, notably by Alpine, Elysian, Baron, and Chuckanut. Pilsners should contain either, or both, Saaz hops, originally from Bohemia, or hops from the German Hallertau region. As for flavor, they should taste just like the Victory Prima Pils reviewed below. One thing Budweiser is correct about in their ads is that this style is very difficult to brew, as flaws and impurities are easily detectable. I tip my glass to every American brewery brewing this style in the way it was meant to be. I shudder to think about the days when you went to buy beer your choices were Bud, Michelob, Miller, Coors, and if you really wanted to splurge, Heineken. Thank you small American Brewer!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Beer Review: Victory Prima Pils
The main focus of my blog is all things Washington beer related, but I had to make an exception for this beer. Victory brewing is located in Dowington, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philly and have been producing quality beers since 1996. Their Prima Pils is one of the best American, no one of the best Pilsners, period. When poured into a glass it has a soft yellow glow, the color of Chamomile tea. The carbonation was a little better on the draft version, but the bottles still maintained a respectable lace running down the glass. Victory uses all whole flower hops, as opposed to the pelletized concentrated hops that most breweries use. The Pils contains all four of the Noble hops, Hallertau, Tettnang, Spalt, and Saaz to give a nice floral hop flavor, with hints of fresh straw, slightly grassy, and a crisp pristinely clean finish. The big American breweries have given this style a bad rap by carelessly tossing around the Pilsner name in their ads, but Victory is doing their part to restore the good name of this style. It's everything a classic Pils should be, and more. Perfect for your next summber BBQ!
Monday, May 18, 2009
Best Beers From Around the World, Shoreline Community College, July 16, July 22, 6:30-9pm. Registration info log on to www.shoreline.edu
Sunday, May 17, 2009
American Craft Beer Week (officially recognized by Congress now!) wrapped up today, and Washington had so many events we needed ten days to celebrate it properly. There was a beer class hosted by Mike Baker at The Pub at Pipers Creek, Cask beers at Beverage Place, The Dray pulled out some rarities on draft they squirreled away for a special occasion, and the event that excited me, The Sour Beer Fest at Brouwers. They featured 30 Sours from all over the U.S. and Belgium. They also featured a special food menu for the occasion which unfortunately I forgot to grab (gimme a break I just started doing this), but it looked amazing, and every item featured some beer in the recipe. I did grab the beer lineup, but if you love sour beers like I do, you should sit down before looking at this lineup. The beers that I tasted are described in parenthesis.
Anacortes-Sour (I just had a sip of this one. It was mildly sour with hints of ribbon candy sweetness)
Baron-Dirty Sour Doppelbock
Cantillon-Lou Pepe Framboise (Absolutely gorgeous ruby red color, champagne carbontation, perfectly sour!)
Cantillon-Lou Pepe Kriek
Cascade-Nightfall Blackberry (Only had a little taste of this one, later regretted not getting a glass of my own)
Cascade-Vlad the Imp Aler (points for clever word play)
Drakes-Blueberry Imperial Stout
Drakes-Cherry Imperial Stout
Elysian-Gameworks 8yr Cherry Lambic
Hansens-Kriek Firkin (Firkin amazing! More like a sour wine with a light carbonation, but wonderful)
Justin-Tour de Burke
Lost Abbey-Cuvee de Tomme
New Belgium-Bottleworks 10
New Belgium-Fodre 3
New Belgium-La Terroir (As good as any of the old world Belgians I had. The U.S. is closing the gap. Lookout Belgium!)
Northern Lights-Whiskey Sour Dunkel
Oud Beersel-3yr Lambic
Port Townsend-Sour Red (One of the few beers that had any evidence of malted barley and hops, but still mildly sour. Way to go Carter! Nice job.)
Rodenbach-Grand Cru (Still the gold standard for Flemish sours. Perfection in a glass!)
Russian River-Consecration, Deviation, Sanctification, Supplication, Temptation, Empirical 7 "P.N.C. Brew" (They are doing some great things at Russian River. If you haven't tried any of their beers, stop what you are doing and go drink one! My only complaint with their beers is with all the -tion endings it's hard to keep them straight; especially after you've had a few of them!)
There was a bit of a line to get in the front door when we arrived at 6pm, and another line to get beer, but this was one of the few things that I thought was worth queuing up for. Most of my time in the beer line was spent sifting through that list and decide what two beers to get. Getting two beers at a time proved to be a little unnecessary since the service staff for the event was great, but better safe than thirsty! I have worked in the restaurant business most of my adult life, and I know that crowded events can be stressful to servers. Trying to elbow your way through throngs of drinkers when you have a job to do gets to be a drag after awhile. Kudos to the Brouwers staff. They were both friendly and efficient. I think the thing that impressed me the most was the fine efforts from American breweries. I will always taste a local version of a Belgian style, but usually they fall a little short of their Belgian counterparts. Not so much these days. Some of the American sours I tried were every bit as good as the Belgians. It's nice to see American brewers closing the gap and nailing styles dead on that take real art to brew. I had to brush my teeth about four times the next day to get the sour taste out of mouth, but more than worth it!