If you found this blog interesting, please check out my new beer blog at:

http://weekofbeer.wordpress.com

Cheers!

Steak is typically off my menu when the weather turns cold.  I usually don’t even see the point in eating steak unless it is cooked on my charcoal grill.  But my wife found a great marinade recipe (and no, the marinade did not include beer!), and with a nice bottle of stout I’d been wanting to try on hand, I gave the broiler a try, and was so happy I did.

 

Broiled Flank Steak with Mushrooms

 

For the steak:

1 to 1-1/2 lb Flank Steak

1 medium onion

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 tamari or regular soy sauce

 

Season steak with salt and pepper, and put into a large plastic zip-top bag.  Chop onion, and stir together in a bowl with the other ingredients.  Pour into bag with steak, and marinade for several hours, or up to 2 days, turning occasionally.

 

When ready to cook, remove steak from bag, discard marinade, and put onto broiler pan.  Set oven rack to 3” to 4” below broiler, and set broiler on high.  Cook anywhere from 6 to 8 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steak and your desired doneness.

 

Transfer steak to a cutting board, and cut at a 45-degree angle across the grain into thin slices.  Serve topped with mushrooms and sauce per recipe below:

 

For the mushrooms:

3/4 lb portobello mushrooms

3/4 lb white mushrooms

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 stick of butter

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2-1/2 tablespoons tamari or regular soy sauce

1/8 cup sugar

 

Wisk together the vinegar, soy sauce and sugar in a bowl.  Set aside.

 

Halve, then slice the portobellos into 1/4” thick slices.  Put 1/4 of a stick of butter in a pan over medium heat, add about half of the chopped onion, cook for 1 minute, then add the portabellas.  Stir occasionally, until mushrooms are well-browned and most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan.  Set aside in a bowl.

 

Slice the white mushrooms into 1/4” thick slices.  Put the other 1/4 stick of butter in the pan, and add the rest of the chopped onion.  Cook for 1 minute, then add the white mushrooms.  Again, stir occasionally, until mushrooms are well-browned and most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan.  Increase the heat to medium-high, add the already cooked portobellos, along with the vinegar-soy sauce mixture.  Allow to boil for approximately 3 minutes, or until sauce thickens slightly.  Serve over sliced steak.

 

*****

 

My perfect beer pairing for this steak is Green Flash Stout.  Only recently available in New Jersey, Green Flash Brewing was founded six years ago just outside the micro-brew mecca of San Diego, California.  Well-known for their hop-heavy West Coast IPA and other hoppy brews, their stout is a more balanced offering, but still with a noticeable hop presence.

 

It pours a deep ruby-cola hue, almost black, with a frothy, foamy head the color of chocolate milk.  An initial caramel and brown sugar sweetness is soon followed by an earthy middle of cocoa powder and bakers chocolate.  The finish is earthy as well, with flavors of roasted walnut, sasparilla, and bitter root; just enough bitterness to balance the initial sweetness.  The mouthfeel is thick and creamy; rich enough to be memorable, but not so rich that you can’t finish a pint or two.

 

The sweet, bitter, and earthy flavors in the stout both compliment and contrast the sweet and tangy flavors in the steak marinade and mushroom sauce.  While both the steak and the stout are extrememly enjoyable on their own, the pairing brings both to new heights.

 

Definition: Stout

The stout style was originated by the Guinness Brewery of Ireland, who brewed several types of porter, including their “Extra Stout Porter”, a particularly rich and flavorful take on the porter style of beer so popular in England at the time.  Eventually, the word Porter was dropped from the name, and Guinness became the mother of all stouts to come.  Key to a stout is the roasted and chocolate barley malts that provide the distinctive flavor and color to the style.  While I’ve found quite a few stouts over the years I enjoy more than Guinness, I must still tip my hat to (and enjoy the occasional pint of) the original.

 

Beer Quote:

 “Fermentation equals civilization.”

                                     – John Ciardi

 

Just a post to share various local beer news and happenings in Northern New Jersey and the Tri-State Region this month.

Boaks Beer Launched

Cheers and best of luck to a great homebrewer who has now gone pro! Brian Boak, award-winning homebrewer and president of my local homebrew club (http://www.jerseybrewers.com/), has now launched his own line of commercially-produced specialty craft beer under the label Boaks Beer (http://www.boaksbeer.com/index.php).

His Monster Mash Russian Imperial Stout is now available in restaurants, bars and stores in New Jersey. While the Russian Imperial Stout style in general isn’t a favorite of mine, this one is a solidly good beer, and is opening to great reviews on beeradvocate (http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/16792/41239) and ratebeer (http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/boaks-monster-mash-imperial-stout/83776/)

Even more highly anticipated (in my opinion) is his Two Blind Monks Belgian-style Dubbel which should be available later this month. If it is anything like the subtley spiced, rich and malty homebrewed Dubbel that Brian has shared at our homebrew club meetings and at last Fall’s Brewtopia Fest in NYC, this is one well-worth seeking out.

We wish you all the best, and look forward to your future releases!

Still crazy after all these beers

Follow the link below to an article on the excellent Captain Lawrence Brewing Company and the state of homebrewing in Westchester County, New York: http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080305/LIFESTYLE01/803050302

The Beer Essentials

Follow the link below to an article on the Hudson Valley’s own Defiant Brewing and homebrew club the Ramapo Valley Ruffians: http://www.lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008803050305

1st Manhattan Cask Ale Festival

Cask-beer afficianado and expert Alex Hall, recently featured in the New York Times (www.nytimes.com/2007/10/24/dining/24pour.html), is organizing Manhattan’s First Cask Ale Festival in conjunction with (and being held at) the Chelsea Brewing Company on March 28-30. For more information, and eye-popping list of breweries expected to be providing casks, visit: 

http://www.gotham-imbiber.com/beerfestival.html

It Must Be Spring…

 if Maibock is now on tap! Ramstein, brewers of some excellent German-style lagers and wheat beers, will have the debut of this year’s Maibock (a traditional German hoppy sweet strong pale lager typically tapped in May) at their March Open House on Saturday, March 8th from 2 – 4 p.m. at the High Point Brewing Company in Butler, NJ. Their open house includes samples, a brewery tour, and the chance to purchase growler-fills of their draft-only beers (including their Maibock). Visit the brewery website at:

http://www.ramsteinbeer.com/

Out of Town Events: Philly Craft Beer Week

 A celebration of the (self-proclaimed) America’s Best Beer-Drinking City, there are numerous events, tastings, tours, dinners and even a breakfast (ah, yes, “Wheat Beer! The Breakfast of Champions”). For more information, visit:

 http://www.phillybeerweek.org/

A Belgian Dubbel is a true treat to those who love dark, rich and complex beers that pair well with hearty food.  The raisins in the following recipe compliment the dark fruit flavors of the beer, while the carbonation and notes of spice in the beer help cut the sweetness of the rich sauce.  While nearly any Belgian or Belgian-style Dubbel will do, I tried this particular dish with a Dubbel by Westmalle, a Trappist brewery where the beer is produced under the watchful eyes of the monks of the Trappist Abbey of Westmalle.

I suggest making homemade spaetzle (recipe further below) to accompany the pork, but egg noodles will do in a pinch.  The pork comes out amazingly tender, so be patient during the relatively long cooking time.  It is well worth the wait.

  

Slow Braised Pork with Raisins and Balsamic 

Serves 3-4 people

1-1/2 to 2-pound boneless pork butt, cut into 3-4 equal pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 large onion, diced
1-1/2 cups raisins soaked in warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon thyme

Preheat oven to 325°F. Salt and pepper the pork. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add pork to pot and cook until browned on all four sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer pork to plate; discard fat in pot. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in same pot over medium heat. Drain the water from the raisins, then add onions and raisins and sauté until onions are soft, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add sugar and stir for about 30 seconds. Add vinegar and bring mixture to boil.  Cook until slightly reduced, about 2-3 minutes. Add broth, all herbs, and pork with juices from plate. Bring to boil. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Bake (braise) for 45 minutes. Using tongs, turn pork over and continue braising until meat is very tender, about 45 minutes longer.  Remove pork from pot, and place on top of spaetzel (or noodles) and cover.

Boil cooking liquid over high heat until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.  Ladle from pot, leaving any fat or oils behind.  Pour over pork and serve.  

Spaetzle
2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup minced parsley
Butter to taste

Lightly grease a large bowl with butter.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, blend flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in eggs and milk, and mix to form a soft batter. Mix in the parsley.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Taking about a 1/2 cup of batter at a time and using a flat spatula, press the batter directly into boiling water through 1/4-inch holes on coarse grater or colander.  Stir spaetzle gently and boil for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop spaetzle from pot, drain well, and transfer to buttered bowl.

  

Definition: Trappist Beer

 

Only seven breweries in the world are authorized to call label their beers as Trappist.  Six are from Belgium (Orval, Chimay, Westvleteren, Rochefort, Westmalle and Achel), and one is from The Netherlands (Koningshoeven).  These beers must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, either directly by or under supervision of Trappist monks.  The monks started brewing to both provide for their own consumption and also to provide funds for the upkeep of the abbey and their charitable works.

 

Trappist beers are typically either Dubbels (dark, rich ales with flavors of dried fruit, brown sugar, and caramel) or Tripels (light in color, but strong in alcohol ales where often the flavor of the particular grains used comes through).  In both Dubbels and Tripels, notes of spice, distinctive to each brewery, are a result of the particular strain of yeast used to ferment (no actual spice is added to the brew itself). 

Many often believe the terms “Dubbel” and “Tripel” refer to the strength of the beer.  However, the mathematics are not exact… a Dubbel at around 7% ABV isn’t double the strength of a typical lager, and a Tripel at around 10% isn’t triple-strength.  The terms may derive from the relative amount of grain used.  And why, may you ask, can you not find a Trappist “Single”?  It is actually called a “Simple” is a low-strength beer sometimes brewed by the monks soley for their own consumption.

 

 

Beer Quote:

“In heaven there is no beer…
That’s why we drink it here!”

                                    - Frankie Yankovic

Earlier this month, Denver, Colorado was home to one of the greatest gatherings of beer under a single roof… over 400 breweries from over 40 states serving over 1,800 different beers to over 46,000 beer lovers! It was the 2007 Great American Beer Festival, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance.

Honestly, I must say, the entire experience was a bit overwhelming (in a good way!). And even by attending 2 of the 4 sold-out sessions, I couldn’t even attempt to take it all in. And while the line to get inside half-an-hour before the doors opened on Friday night stretched around nearly 3-sides of the convention center, I got inside relatively quickly, and with a few exceptions, rarely waited more than a minute at most brewery booths before being served. While certainly the largest beer festival I’ve ever attended (and probably the largest in the world), I’d also have to say it was also the most well-run and well-organized.

But enough about the organization… we’re here to talk about BEER. And there was some truly amazing beer to be had.  This blog entry will focus on some of the truly BIG and one-of-a-kind beers at the fest.  Probably one of the longest lines at the GABF was well worth the wait: New Glarus Brewing Company out of Wisconsin makes some absolutely outstanding fruit beers and barrel-aged beers. While the one-ounce samples were hardly enough for a full-blown detailed review, their Wisconsin Belgian Red brewed with a pound of local cherries in every bottle; the sweet and tart Raspberry Tart; the big and complex Quadruple with notes of warming alcohol and dried fruit; and their vanilla-tinged Bourbon-Barrel Aged Bock were just all outstanding. Unfortunately, they do not distribute beyond their home state, meaning I’ll just have to find an excuse to visit Wisconsin someday soon.

I also endured waits to try two perennial favorites at the fest… Alaskan Smoked Porter and Samuel Adams Utopias.  Alaskan Smoked Porteris the most-award winning beer in the history of the fest, and this year picked up two more medals…. And while medals are not always the best judge of a great beer, it is hard to argue with beer judges who keep recognizing this brew year after year.   A truly unique and delicious beer, you can read more about it in a previous blog entry here.

To sum up Utopias, I’ll leave it to the brewer I visited after savoring a sample to whom I explained I needed a drink of water to clear my palate before trying anything else.  He said to me “Utopias? That’s not beer!” And he meant nothing negative by that comment. It just really is unlike anything most people would call beer.  It is the strongest beer ever brewed at 25% ABV (alcohol by volume), which is equivalent to 50-proof spirits (some rums, whiskeys, etc.)  It is thick, syrupy, complex, with an alcohol bite, and no carbonation. It’s brings to mind whiskey, bourbon, even cognac. And at upwards of $100 a bottle, only occasionally brewed, and a very limited supply, it’s unlikely most will ever have the chance to try it again.

The entire lineup of about a dozen beers offered by Dogfish Head at the GABF consisted of brews of at least 9% ABV or greater.  Not that big beers are necessarily better beers, but brewer Sam Calagione really knows how to push the limits of the brewing process.  His World Wide Stout at 18% ABV is arguably the strongest dark beer in the world, and is incredibly dark, rich and tasty.  His Fort is brewed with over a TON of raspberries.  And his Red & Whiteis a 10% ABV witbier aged in Pinot Noir barrels, making for a very interesting merging of an earthy wine with dark fruit (cherries, raisins, berries) flavors and a light crisp beer with spice and citrus flavors.

 Next up, trends spotted (and sampled) at the GABF…

 Beer Quote:

“The Great American Beer Festival is the swirling, dynamic, luminous core of what is now the most exciting beer culture on the planet.”
                                                                                                – Garrett Oliver

IslandThe last of our Santa Barabra-area brewery visits takes us south along the coast to Carpinteria, home to Island Brewing Company. Just a short drive off the 101-freeway, tucked into an industrial complex, we find a lively little storefront with a distant ocean view across the railroad tracks and over the green fields of a park just beyond. Dozens of patrons, a few bringing along their babies and dogs, congregate around 5 p.m. inside at a simple bar and outside on the asphalt patio wrapped in a bamboo fence. There is a laid-back vibe here, casual conversation over pints and pretzels (just about the only items served here), with the California sun and surf providing the only needed atmosphere.  You can just imagine Jimmy Buffet hanging out here after a hard day at work… wait a minute, does Jimmy really ever have a “hard day at work”?

Six beers are available on tap, with 22 oz bottles of most offerings avaible to take home. We skip the light lager, and start with the Kolsch, a relatively light German-style ale that with its light color and body most casual drinkers would mistake for a pilsner. Island’s version has an aroma nearly identical to Heineken (from the noble hops), but a richer taste of bready malt and clover-honey sweetness. A nice alternative to a lager on a warm summer evening.

ParadiseBoth their Paradise Pale Ale and IPA have a distinctive “tropical” taste with hints of guava and passionfruit resulting from similar hop varieties used in both beers. This flavor gives Island’s beers a signature character to make them memorable among literally hundreds of Pale Ales and IPA’s produced by most American breweries. While the pale ale is more balanced with biscuit and caramel flavors from the malt, the IPA is more assertively hopped with grapefruit flavor and aroma, and a more pronounced lingering bitterness.

JubileeAnd while the Pale Ale and IPA are all about the hops, their Nut Brown and Jubilee ales are where the malts take center stage. The brown has a deep rich caramel flavor, with a sweetness offset by roasted and bitter notes of walnut and peanut shells. The Jubilee is made in the style of an Old Ale, a big rich dark malty beer that one patron described as the extreme take on the Nut Brown. We found Jubilee to be extrememly smooth and very drinkable despite its relatively high alcohol content, and the best beer overall of this very fine bunch.

Definition: Old Ale

While many think of Barleywines when it comes to high-alcohol beers that are meant to be sipped and savored, and can be cellared much like wine, the British Old Ale style also falls under this definition.  Old Ales are big malty beers, often having flavors of dark fruit (dates, raisins, figs), and a noticable warming alcohol note in their finish.  Even with their high alcohol content, there is still plenty of residual sugar in these beers, and their low carbonation and somewhat syrupy mouthfeel make them ideal for slowly sipping out of a brandy snifter.

Beer Quote:

“Of hard old ale… according to my mind, is better than all the wine in the world.”

                                                                                           – George Borrow

HomerNo, I haven’t changed this blog from a place for imbibers to a study in Greek literature… no, I’m writing about our favorite yellow beer-lovin’ fella and his trip to the Kwik-E-Mart. Now Homer Simpson can get everything he’s ever dreamed of in a single pint… a pint of ice cream that is!

Ben & Jerry’s is releasing a one-time only flavor, “Duff & D’oh-Nuts”, for the premeire of The Simpson’s Movie in Springfield, Vermont. Yes, that’s Duff as in Duff Beer, and D’oh-Nuts as in Homer’s favorite breakfast, coffee-break treat and late-night snack. And those crazy folks at Ben & Jerry’s are putting both of these into ice cream. They say it will be “a combination of chocolate and cream stout ice creams with glazed chocolate donuts.” Hmmm… donuts…

Read more about it here!

And for those who can’t make it to Vermont to try this delicious sounding concoction, you can always add your own donuts to Ben & Jerry’s only other beer-flavored ice cream, “Black & Tan”.

Beer Quote:

“Ah, beer, my one weakness. My Achille’s heel, if you will.”
– Homer Simpson

HollisterWhile the wineries surrounding Santa Barbara have been slowly growing in both popularity and reputation over the past ten years or so, the quirky comedy Sideways has brought even more attention to Southern California’s answer to the Napa Valley. And while visitors to Santa Barbara are constantly reminded in almost every restaurant, bar and tourist publication of the vast array of local wine available, there is some great beer to be found here if you know where to look.

The LA Times recently featured a great article about beer in wine country, and I was lucky enough to check out a few local breweries for myself.

Surrounded by a sea of big-box stores in the Santa Barbara suburb of Goleta, the recently opened Hollister Brewing Company is not exactly what one would consider a tourist destination. However, for a change of pace after a day or two of wine tasting, their house-brewed beer is well-worth seeking out. Skip over the relatively mundane Sands Session Ale, and let your palate explore their more robust and flavorful offerings. For hop-heads, the White Star XPA has a big grapefruit aroma that carries through the flavor, finishing with a moderate but palatable bitterness. It is served on a nitro-tap, typically used to give stouts their creamy head and mouthfeel, an unusual twist that makes this Extra Pale Ale even more enjoyable.

For those who enjoy maltier beers, both the Table 42 Red and the Milk Stoutare excellent choices. The red ale is a very drinkable session beer, full of caramel and bready flavor with just a hint of butterscotch. The stout is smooth, creamy and sweet, which is exactly what makes a milk stout more approachable to those who find dry stouts, like Guinness, too bitter and sour. Imbibers who like a bit more “funk” in their beer will enjoy the yeasty, slightly tart Farmhouse, a saison-style ale that can is excellent with spicy Asian-influenced cuisine.

And while all the beers I’ve mentioned so far are very solid offerings, the real stars here are Holister’s two wheat beers: Hollister Hefe and Magic Clamps Weizenbock. While the German hefeweizen style is common in many American brewpubs, few acheive the right level of banana and clove aroma and flavor that make a hefe much more than a wheat beer. Hollister gets the flavors here just right, along with a spritzy, lively carbonation that makes this an excellent refresher on a hot summer day.

Weizenbock is a much less commonly found style both here and abroad, maybe due to the fact that Germany’s Aventinus Weizenbock is so close to perfection that few will attempt their own take. I’m very glad that Hollister took on the challenge. Their Weizenbock, in both aroma and flavor, with its spice, fruit and richness will remind you of both banana bread and fruitcake. And for as strange as that may sound for the taste of a beer, it really works here. I daresay it is the best American example of this style I have ever tasted.

Hollister is a brewpub and restaurant, so I shouldn’t forget to mention the food. They offer a wide variety of unusual pizzas, but for as delicious as the menu descriptions sound, the pizza is merely average. Maybe this was because it was overshadowed by the appetizers we enjoyed beforehand. Their tortilla soup is rich in flavor without being too spicy, and their mac & cheese made with pancetta and gruyere is just simply delicious.

We’ll continue with two more Santa Barbara beer stops in upcoming blog entries, so stay tuned…

AventinusaventinusDefinition: Weizenbock
A richer and stronger (i.e. higher alcohol, Bock strength) version of a Dunkel Weizen (a German dark wheat beer). It has the signature banana and clove aroma and flavor typical of German weizen beers, along with flavors of darker fruit (raisins, cherries, figs) and rich caramel malts. Aventinus is the most famous and best example of this unique style.

Beer Quote:

“Beer that is not drunk has missed its vocation”

                                                    – Meyer Breslau

Father's Office SignIn the LA scene of clubs and cocktails, Father’s Office in Santa Monica is a welcome oasis for excellent beers and one great burger. Hiding behind a 1950’s facade of an “old man” bar, a bright modern interior of blonde wood is lined with gleaming silver taps from some of the finest craft breweries in the West: AleSmith, Anderson, Lagunitas, Rogue, Russian River and Stone are among the standouts collected here. For a visitor from the East Coast, this was a “pint of gold” at the west end of the rainbow.

We ordered a couple of burgers from the bar, along with an order of sweet potato fries. The fries arrive first in a miniture metal shopping cart just as we snag a coveted table. A slightly crisp exterior with just enough salt gives way to an almost custard-like middle of sweet potato goodness. Hands down, these are the most perfectly prepared fries of any kind I have ever found in a bar.

The burgers arrive shortly after. While the fries are marvels of simplicity, the burgers have layers of complexity one does not expect from “pub grub”. Topped with tiny tender fresh spinach leaves, carmelized onions, and crumbled blue cheese, the smokey bacon-infused patty of medium rare beef acheives both meldings and contrasts of flavor that make you taste something new in every bite. We swear there is something fruity in there (fig jam?) by the time we are halfway through. Whatever all the individual ingredients actually are, this is a burger to be savored.

Craftsman LogoAnd while the food may be reason enough to drop in, the beer is why you should plan to stay awhile. I enjoyed two incredible beers from the Pasadena-based Craftsman Brewing Company that evening at Father’s Office. My first was their Smoked Black Lager. I see this as the perfect alternative to a potentially heavy smoked porter (one of my absolutely favorite styles) for a backyard summer barbeque. While many beers that are black in color have charred or burnt flavors, and many smoked beers have the potential to be a bit harsh on the palate, there are no such distractions here. Rich roasted flavors with just the right touch of woody smokiness permeated what is actually a relatively light in body and easy to drink brew. Plus, this beer goes just perfect with the bacon and blue cheese of the burger.

My second beer from Craftsman was their totally original Triple White Sage. Think champagne meets Thanksgiving, but in the most delicious way. Yes, you can smell and taste the sage in this beer, but for as strange as it sounds, it matches perfectly with the both sweet and dry qualities of this Belgian-inspired ale. Without the sage, this brew reminds me of some of the best beers I’ve had the pleasure to taste… Tripel Karmilett, Saint Sylvester Trois Monts, and Brooklyn Local 1. But with the sage, it transforms an already potentially incredible beer into something completely unique and amazing.

I recently had the opportunity to have a sneak-peek of Brooklyn Brewery’s new still-fill bottling line, along with a preview tasting of the first beer soon to be released from the new bottling line, “Local 1″, courtesy of brewmaster Garrett Oliver.  This excellent bottle-conditioned Belgian-style ale is due to be released at the end of February.

My account of this great event can be found in February  issue of the Malted Barley Appreciation Society newsletter.  Just click on the link below:

http://hbd.org/mbas/pdf/feb07.pdf

Cheers!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.