Thursday, November 30, 2006
After writing my column earlier this month in which I boldly proclaimed that beer goes better than wine with Thanksgiving dinner, I caught several scoffing reactions, including one from my editor. So I decided to put my holiday where my mouth is and serve beer to my wife's family when they came over this year.
You have to understand, this is not a beer family. Traditionally, the members bring wine, usually nothing too exotic, serve it just before dinner and go about their business. I - and especially my wife - was worried this might be a little too edgy for them. But I explained when they were gathered that we were trying to pair beer with the food and mix things up a little.
The pre-dinner course was Avery's Salvation, a Belgian strong golden ale I served to stimulate the taste buds. I had another Belgian, Chimay's Trappist Ale, available, and some people sampled it later. But I used Salvation to kick the dinner off because, despite its 9 percent alcohol-by-volume package, it is a little mellower than your average Belgian and a good way to introduce people to the style. The crowd reaction was one of general pleasure, even for those who hadn't before ventured into beers that big.
With dinner I served two browns to go with the taste of the gravy. The first was Rogue's Hazelnut Brown Nectar, a slightly sweeter brew that was a nice sipper and interested the non-beer enthusiasts. With the meal, I broke out Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre, a heavy mahogany brown ale brewed with green raisins and Belgian beets. I did this not only because it complimented the gravy but because we actually used some in the making of the stuffing, mixing it in during preparation. Raison is no light beer, but it drew the most raves from the crowd.
Finally, with the pumpkin pie we served Left Hand's Juju Ginger Ale. This beer has become a favorite of mine for all occasions because it has a sharp ginger taste but not one that overwhelms the beer flavor. I figured it would go particularly well with the sweeter pumpkin pie, and I have to say I wasn't wrong. The sharpness of the ginger offset the sugar of the pie well, and the bomber bottle was gone before anyone had a chance to go back for seconds.
As each of the family left, they thanked us for the beer serving, so I have to assume this went even better than planned. I'd be curious if anyone else has tried this and, if so, what reactions you've gotten. And if you haven't paired beer with the holiday dinner, I would highly recommend it.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I was down at Bristol Brewing in Colorado Springs on Tuesday - that's $2.50 Edge City series pint night for all of you who don't know - and I grabbed a couple of the EC Belgian Wits. As usual, they spoke to Bristol's craftsmanship. But there was something different about this Belgian too.
Sipping a locally made Belgian like those from Avery and New Belgium breweries, the overwhelming rush is of a full-mouth cooling, a sensation that envelops you in citrus, yeast and something that feels like it a wind blowing out of a cold European country. That slap-you-in-the-face-and-make-you-want-to-visit-Belgium essence is somewhat downplayed here.
Instead, the wit comes across as smooth and quite citrusy (accented by the orange slice the brewery slaps onto the rim). Though lighter in this way, the EC Wit has a carbonated spark to it, one that pricks your tastebuds just a little bit. It was somewhat refreshing to see this different take on a classic style - and still plenty filling.
Thoughts on this, anyone?
ALSO: I wanted to let anyone who actually knows my schedule for publishing the Beer Run column know that it is being delayed one week for space issues and isn't running this week. Yes, my liver is crying too.
And I wanted to thank Eli the Mad Man for his comments last week. Two weeks into this, and you're my only confirmed reader who doesn't happen to be an editor at this paper. That's love, man. That's love.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Fort Collins' Other Wonderful Brewery
Sometimes O'Dell Brewing gets lost in the shadow of New Belgium when the subject of Fort Collins breweries is discussed. Those who get the chance to sample O'Dell's single-batch series beers will never make that mistake, however.
The series of bigger, bolder beers began last year with the Imperial Stout (which I missed) and continued this summer with a Double Pilsner that was maltier and more alcoholic that any pilsner I'd ever tried - and certainly one of the best pilsners as well.
The newest batch, which should be available for about another month, is the Extra Special Red, an 8.0 percent alcohol-by-volume brew that is hoppy and malty and much fuller than your normal red ale. It carries many characteristics, in fact, of a strong ale, with a tinge of molasses and old age on the backtaste that leave you swishing it around in your mouth, stopping to think and swishing some more.
O'Dell has always produced fine quallity beers, like their 5 Barrel Pale Ale, a perfect combination of smoothness and hops that makes it one of the few pales ideally suited to drinking in warmer weather. But this new, limited-edition series shows a burst of daring and originality that should make it even more of a force in the microbrew world.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The first thing I have to admit is that I have no idea what I'm doing.
It's not that I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to beer. I started raiding the mix-a-six microbrew aisle at the local liquor store at the same time that most of my college buddies were bragging about the merits of Busch Light. I've attended festivals and tasting sessions, home-brewed with my father and visited more brewpubs than I can count, all to grow my taste buds and appreciation for beer. I'm not a trained professional, but I feel confident that I can write a column about nature's greatest beverage.
What I have no idea about is how this blog thing works. I'm a newspaper reporter, and waking up and seeing my words in print the next morning is the only thing I know. I'm not quite sure how often you're supposed to blog or how I'm supposed to interact with the readers. Most of you who are reading this have read a lot more blogs than I have, I suppose.
So, let me propose this: If you're interested in beer, just come along with me, and we'll see if we can get a good conversation going.
I love beer in mostly all of its forms - dark, light, sour, stout, wheaty, hoppy (especially hoppy), Belgian, German, American. Just don't give me a Keystone or a Corona and everything's going to be all right.
I love talking about beer, getting recommendations on new brews to try and, as my wife and friends can tell you, giving my thoughts on what I try. I love hearing other people's thoughts and heading to out-of-the-way breweries and beer bars just to pick up something new. Combining your beer with an odd spice or aging oak barrell? My mug runneth over.
So let's talk beer . . .
For my first blog entry, I want to talk about New Belgium's Saison Harvest Ale.
Those of you who read my column in The Colorado Springs Gazette may remember that I took New Belgium Brewery to task this summer over its Skinny Dip beer (and caught a lot of grief about it from friends). My point was that Skinny Dip, despite advertisements that it was something more, was your standard bland summer creation and didn't match up to New Belgium's sterling inventory.
Saison is the beer that Skinny Dip wanted to be.
A farmhouse-style Belgian ale, Saison is both light and serious. It has the oomph of Belgian yeast combined with the light hopping of an ale. What the combination produces is a smooth mouthfeel with a slight citrus zing that leaves you with a strong floral aftertaste. It is the aftertaste, in fact, that seems to be Saison's signature. It lingers long and pleasantly and gives the wonderful cool that only a Belgian can give.
This, then, is the concoction Fort Collins' most famous brewery should have been marketing as something new and different this summer, the cooling, easily drinkable beer with something extra. Saison is a seasonal and, hence, is only likely to be around for another month or so. (It is the rare fall seasonal, after all, that does not have the taste of pumpkin in it.)
But for its classing brewing style - the brewery asserts that Beligan farmers used to serve it to workers at the end of the day - and innovative combination of tastes on you palate, I would recommend you grab this before the winter brews come out.
Thanks for reading.