Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday Night Tasting - Thanksgiving Edition

Greetings from! In celebration of Thanksgiving, we decided to review and recommend four New England craft beers that would pair well with all of your feasts.

Recommendation #1:

Mayflower Brewing Co. - Plymouth, MA
Cooper's Series: Thanksgiving Ale
Packaged on 10/18/10, 1pt 6oz

This beer was Mayflower Brewing Co.'s take on an English-style Old Ale. Per the brewery's website, this is a combination of an American Strong Ale and English Old Ale. Though we don't have any English-style old ales to use as a comparison, we think you will be pleased with this beer.

This brew pours a magnificently amber fluid, with a nice touch of cranberry. The head is lightly reddish, but is minimal and doesn't hang around very long. But that's okay, because it's so inviting you'll want to go right in for a sip.

The aroma is sweet, malty, and has a little hint of maple. This is likely as the beer is aged on toasted American white oak (likely chips, or in wood barrels). The flavor accentuates the nose as the maple really shines through. It's sweet, but not overpowering. It has a bit of tart cranberry flavor at the finish. Undertones of clove and nutmeg coat the tongue. It has a full mouth feel and a smooth full body, without being too strong.

It's definitely a drinkable beer, and would probably go best with the turkey. Enjoy a pint at the beginning of your meal. We think an addition of sweet potatoes would be splendid with the beer as well.

Recommendation #2:

Long Trail Brewing Co. - Bridgewater Corners, VT
Brewmaster Series: Centennial Red
Imperial Red Ale, 7.9% ABV, 1pt 6oz

We first tried this beer two weeks ago when we visited the Long Trail brewery & pub. It is the latest edition to the Brewmaster Series of beers, that also includes the Coffee Stout, Double IPA, Imperial Porter, and Pollenator Pale Ale. We must say, it's an excellent addition.

The beer pours a dark amber red, is lightly carbonated, and has a nice fluffy head. It lingers for a little while, and coats your glass as it dissipates.

This beer is full of aroma! It features a caramel and malty scent, with an earthy essence. It's body is rich and malty, and is somewhat on the bitter side; however, it's not overpowering like some pale ales and IPAs. As indicated, it's 7.4% ABV, so it packs a punch. It does mellow out a bit, as it warms.

It has a medium mouth feel, and isn't all that dry. But, we think that's good as you'll definitely want to keep sipping on this enjoyable Red.

We feel it will pair best with your appetizers. It would be great with some sharp cheeses, and also some pepperoni.

Recommendation #3:

Wachusett Brewing Co. - Westminster, MA
Wachusett IPA
5.6% ABV, 5o IBU, 12 oz

We actually featured this beer as our Tuesday Night Tasting on August 4th, which you can read here, but we felt that it would be an excellent addition to your holiday drinking choices. It's bold, flavorful, and just a fine craft beer.

Enjoy it before, during, and after your meal!

Recommendation #4:

Harpoon Brewery - Boston, MA & Windsor, VT
Harpoon Helps: Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale
5.9% ABV, 25 IBU

While searching for swag to give away at Blogtoberfest, we stopped into the Boston brewery where were lucky enough to sample this beer just prior to its release. On top of that, we enjoyed a pint while visiting the Riverbend Taps and Beer Garden, located within the Windsor brewery two weeks ago.

The bottle pours a glowing, warm chestnut hue. It has a medium head, and slowly dissipates. It has a slightly sweet aroma, with a nice hint of fruitiness. In fact, it's similar to a fruity, aromatic red wine, with a hint of berry. It's possible to notice tones of shortbread as well.

The flavor is light in its body; however, it is definitely flavorful! It doesn't way you down, and finishes smooth. It has a great, slight tart/cranberry ending, but is not - I repeat NOT a typical "fruit" beer.

If you can find it in your local package or liquor store, definitely get a six pack. It's a limited release, not to mention a charitable beer, and will go great with your entire meal from start to finish!

We hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving! If you've had these beers before, or you decide to get any of these beers, please let us know how you enjoyed them!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baking with Beer - Whole Wheat Snickerdoodles

I was looking for a relatively healthy cookie recipe to make the other night. I had a hankering for snicker-doodles and had most of the ingredients for them, only not. Instead of sugar I had splenda. Instead of butter I had I Cant Believe Its Not Butter. And instead of all purpose flour I had whole wheat flour. But with some tweaking and some hope, I came up with these whole wheat snickerdoodles.

While they do not contain any beer, they are the PERFECT accompaniment to beer especially any red ale (They were perfect with the Whistling Pig Red Ale we featured the other night) or spicy beer (Harpoon Winter Warmer). They come together in a snap and taste great!

Whole Wheat Snickerdoodles
1.5 cup splenda
1 stick I Cant Believe Its Not butter
2 eggs
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw, or use regular sugar or brown sugar)
2 tbsp Cinnamon

Combine splenda and “butter” and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, beating after each addition. Combine dry ingredients minus the sugar and cinnamon. Gradually add it to the liquid mixture while mixing.

Combine Turbinado and cinnamon in small bowl. Roll the cookie dough into one inch balls, dip and roll into the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on ungreased cookie sheet. You can flatten them out a little with a fork if you want but I like them the way they are. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Adventures in Homebrewing - 5th Edition

As you may know, I began brewing my own beer almost a year ago. When I first got my brewing equipment, I probably brewed on average of once per month. I was really into it, even though a few of my batches weren't all that great. I picked up stuff to make two more batches in April, but the weather changed, school picked up, and I got too busy to brew. It also didn't help that I lived in a third floor apartment.

At the end of the summer, I formed my own homebrewer's club called Boston Brewin'. I figured this would get my ass in gear, and force me to brew. But, the weather was too damn hot to hang around a stove for a few hours. I also ended up moving in mid-September.

I ended up having some free time recently, so I figured it was time to finally brew. I stopped off at Stop & Shop to get some filtered water, as the filtration system attached to our refrigerator is as slow as the day is long. Nevertheless, buying the water was an inexpensive (at only $5 for 5 gallons), and quicker way to go...

So I've had an IPA kit for a while. I figured I would brew this one, as I haven't attempted any pale or India pale ales yet.

Some quick stats:

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)
2 cans of Unhopped Muntons Amber Malt Extract
1lb of Crystal Grain
1 oz. Cascade Hops
1 oz. Chinook Hops
1/2 ounce of Heavy Toasted Oak Chips
1 packet of Muntons Ale Yeast

I typically brew with close to three gallons of water in my concentrated boil, though I never really measure it as I would fill up my kettle from the Britta filter. This time however, I decided to simply use one of the 2.5 gal jugs I got. About a half gallon more is added to the boil though, as I try to get every drop of liquid malt extract out of the containers they come in. Usually hot water and some stirring gets the last of it.

Well, I have to say that using a gas stove is where it's at! Don't get me wrong, if you have an electric stove that DOES NOT mean you can't brew your own beer. I thought it would be very hard to do on an electric stove, but that is not the case. It does take a bit longer to heat up the water initially, but once it's boiling it's boiling - so don't let that be a deterrent! Anyway, the gas stove was nice, and it took maybe 20 minutes or so to get the water to a rolling boil.

My only issue is that since moving, I have misplaced my list of instructions/ingredients for my kits. Fortunately, Beer and Wine Hobby has the same lists on their website, so I just brought it up to follow.

I'm always looking for ways to speed up the process of brewing. Typically I put the kettle in a batch of ice water to drop the temperature, but this time I changed it up a bit. I did put the pot in the sink, but I opted to add my other 2.5 gal jug of water to my primary fermentation tank, and then add the wort to the bucket.

This rapidly dropped the temperature, as the water had been sitting outside for a few hours in 45 degree air. This way, I was able to add the yeast much quicker, and get on with my night. Another new addition to this batch was the Toasted Oak Chips.

I simply steamed them for about 10 minutes, before adding them to the cooled wort.

It's always a good sign when you see bubbles in your airlock, which I found the next day when I came home from work.

I will be taking my first gravity reading today, to see if it is almost time to bottle. The temperature has been a bit low in my basement and in the house, so it might have to wait a few extra days. We shall see, but I will post an update when it's time to drink! I'm hoping it comes out alright.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday Night Tasting - Jasper Murdock Alehouse: Whistling Pig Red Ale

Jasper Murdock Alehouse - Whistling Pig Red Ale
Brewed at the Norwich Inn, Norwich VT
5.6% ABV, 1 pt 6 oz

Whistling Pig Red ale pours a gorgeous ruby-amber color, redolent of the season's foliage. There is minimal head and the scent has an initial vanilla note that fades into toasted maltiness. The taste is sweeter than other red ales I have tried but the mild hint of hops creates a nice balance and great drinkability. The carbonation is spot on, not too much but just enough to keep it crisp and bright. It finishes slightly bitter in a way that makes you want to start the whole process over again, from sniff to sip.

I came across this beer while visiting Vermont this weekend. On Saturday, Adam and I met our friend Andy and his Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary for lunch at the Norwich Inn in Norwich VT. Mary had been there several times for lunch, and knowing our penchant for fresh beer, suggested the venue. The pub within the Inn, the Jasper Murdock Alehouse, offers a variety of English style ales all brewed on premesis. In fact the beer is piped from the fermentation vessels in the brewhouse across from the courtyard straight into the tap behind the bar.

That is some fresh beer right there!

To get things started we ordered a sampler and right away I was taken with the Whistling Pig Red Ale which is why I chose to take a bottle home and why I am featuring it today.Now, I don't want to set you up for dissapointment. You won't find this beer at your local package store. You won't be able to order it at your favorite brew pub. For the time being, Jasper Murdock's ales are only available at the Alehouse at the Norwich Inn. But if you find yourself in Windsor County, Vermont it is worth checking out.

Check out the Norwich Inn's January Brewer's Weekend in our upcoming beer events.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Brew England Visits: Woodstock, Vermont

This weekend Adam and I spent a few days in one of our favorite New England spots - the lovely town of Woodstock, Vermont.

There are a few reasons we love this town, for one it is a reasonable driving distance from Boston (about 2.5 hours of divine scenic views), and second that it is a quintessential New England town - with a main street littered with quaint shops and great restaurants. Not to mention it is a stone's throw from a couple of our favorite breweries and the area chock a block with wineries/wine tastings and offers tons of diversions for weekend vacationers from touring the Billings Farm or Sugarbush Farm to perusing the gorgeous glass works at Simon Pearce. It's an ideal getaway for people like us, who just want to get away for a few days and take in some nice scenery, some great beer and good times.

This is not our first time in Woodstock. We spent a weekend there a couple of years ago and that experience, especially the great time we had at Long Trail Brewery, is one of the reasons we started this blog! To chronicle our brew-trips. Though we did not have the blog at the time, the pics from that trip are here.

We arrived in the Woodstock area around noon on Friday. We stopped first in Quechee for the Cannot Be Missed Cabot Store where we sampled pretty much every cheese offered by Cabot (including several hard to find flavors such as Sage and (my personal fave) Tiki Masala, and some cheese offered by other makers as well. There was also a section of the store devoted to a local winery, Putney Mountain Winery where we got to sample their inventory of fruit wines, leaving with 2 bottles of the Apple Maple wine. I know, it sounds odd. But it is not as sweet as you may think, and it paired amazingly with the Grafton Smoked Maple Cheddar we bought to enjoy later that night. This wine is also great mulled with cinnamon. If you ever have occasion to purchase any I highly reccomend it. We also picked up some Cabot Sharp Cheddar and some of Northeast Kingdom's heavenly sweet garlic mustard to have with some pretzels.

From there we eagerly joureyed from Quechee, through Woodstock and into Bridgewater Corners for lunch at the Long Trail Brewery. The last time we were at the brewery, it was a Saturday and it was PACKED. As in, three hour wait for a table packed. This time, since it was a Friday afternoon, the brewery's pub area was pleasantly crowded but we were able to snag two seats at the bar right away. We got right down to business and ordered a sampler, and then settled on our first round: Double Bag for Adam and a Harvest Ale for me. For Adam, Long Trail is a desert island beer. As in if he was going to be stranded on a desert island with only one beer, Long Trail Ale would probably be it. For me, I am simply continually surprised at how much I enjoy their beer. The Harvest is not the typical fall beer I would like. It's not filled with cinnamon and nutmeg and clove-y scents and tastes. Rather it is crisp, refreshing and hearty with just a hint of spice. But it seems the more you drink, the more notes of spice you pick up and he more attached to the beer you become. Well played Long Trail.

(Me and my Harvest Ale)

We sampled a few other brews while we were there - look for reviews as well as some more photos and information about the brewery later this week in our Long Trail Brewery post. (Trust me, Adam's passion for this beer really needs a post of it's own!)

After the brewery we went back to Woodstock and checked into The Shire, reccomended to us by our good friend Andy who has impeccable taste in lodgings. It was exactly what we wanted: a cute room with super comortable bed and nice accomodations, not to mention a to die for view from our window and door. It's also a 5 minute walk from downtown. Really the perfect place to stay if you ask us! After we had settled on we walked to a nearby market to buy the essentials: for us it was a gallon of water, a wine opener and some plastic utensils.

After dropping that back in the room we headed out into the crisp evening air to explore downtown. We did some shopping at Gillingham's (reccomended to us by my smart friend Alisa!), one of the oldest general stores in the country. I appreciated their excitement over the imminent arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau!

(I know this is a beer blog but we can still talk about wine sometimes right?)

We poked around some other shops and then it was back to the Shire to open up a bottle of the Putney Valley Apple Maple Wine, some Long Trail Ale purchased from the brewery earlier that day (you dont get fresher than that) and the cheese and crackers and pretzels and mustard we purchased earlier at the Cabot store. A nice end to a busy day!

The next day we woke up early and walked to the Daily Grind for coffee and croissants! It was such a beautiful day ( we couldnt have paid for nicer weather) that we decided to drive up to Killington to check things out.

Even though it was 58 degrees there were a decent amount of skiers and snowboarders hitting the trails and it was a neat area to explore. And since it was the end of Killington's Hay Festival there were some interesting sights to see!

If you consider enourmous bears made of hay interesting. Which I do. The next stop was in Quechee, to visit the tasting room of the Charlotte Village Winery for a little tasting and lesson about their wines.

Adam and I are more and more surprised at home much we continue to enjoy fruit wines. This winery had a raspberry wine that just screamed SUMMER ON THE PORCH to me. But I went for the practical and bought some nice cabernet to enjoy on Thanksgiving.

We could not dilly dally with the wine for long because we had important business to attend to! We were off to meet Andy and his Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary at the Norwich Inn for lunch!

Uncle Mike and Aunt Mary live in a neighboring town of Woodstock, and Andy was planning on visiting them anyway so it was amazing luck that he planned on visiting them the same weekend we planned on being in Woodstock. And even better luck that his Aunt Mary knew of this great local pub/microbrewery called Jasper Murdock's Alehouse at the Norwich Inn!

We sampled each of their beers (brewed on location and pumped right into the tanks behind the bar!), and each had different and definite favorites and we even brought some of their beer home! Stay tuned this week as our Tuesday Night Tasting will feature the beer we purchased as well as a wrap up of the delightful time we spend not only at Jasper Murdock's but also at the Seven Barrel Brewery located in nearby Lebanon, NH which we visited after our lunch at Jasper's.

(The gang at Seven Barrels Brewery. After we led the crowd in singing the Pina Colada song.)

A great day filled with good friends, good food and GREAT beer!

On the way home we stopped at Simon Pearce, the famed glass company, to check out some glass blowing and, I had thought, to purchase some glass. I was all "We should commemorate the weekend by buying maybe like a set of four goblets! Or maybe some candle sticks? Or how about a serving bowl?) Or maybe not! Since the least expensive thing in there was a Christmas ornament and even it was $72. Yikes Bikes. Gorgeous stuff though and I have my eye on a goreous 3-tealight holder that will make it's way into my life at some point, just not this past weekend. In any case it was really nice to look around, exciting and informative to watch the glassblowers and ask them my myriad questions. And hey you can't beat the view out back!

All that glass and fire and waterfall gazing made us parched so we popped next door to the Parker House Inn for a drink and to relax a bit. Another cute place that should be on anyone's list for a cozy drink after a long day.

From there we journeyed to Bently's Restaurant and Bar which included a delicious dinner of seared tuna and steak. This was my third time ever at this restaurant and I am proud to share with you that as of now I am still four square Mayor of that joint. Boo yeah. After that it was back to The Shire and calling it a night after our long but seriously fun day.

The next day we slept late, checked out and headed to Sharon to pick up Andy. After an incredible lunch with his aunt and uncle we were off for our last stop of the trip - The Harpoon Brewery in Windsor VT!

We were able to get a seat at the bar and within minutes our orders were placed before us, fresh, delicious and ready to be enjoyed.

(Apple Pie (Harpoon Apple Cider + Harpoon Winter Warmer) for Andy, Grateful Harvest for Adam, and Winter Warmer for me)

The pub area of the brewery was pretty busy for a weekend, which is not too surprising. Their food is wonderful, the beer is as fresh as can be and they even offer live music and entertainment on certain days. They offer regular tours which are something to try even if you have been on the Boston tour - it's must quieter and more intimate. You can also bring your beer outside and put your feet up from the fire pit, as Andy and I did.

And after you've had your fill of beer and food and taken a tour and relaxed by the firepit you can purchase some swag in the gift shop. I bought a fourpack of Leviathan Barleywine and the matching glass for my brother, because I am the best sister ever.

So all in all, it was a fantastic and fun-filled weekend. If any of you out there are looking for a nice weekend away, a weekend that, say, involves lots of fresh beer, and delicious wine and cheese, and tasty food and good people, I could not reccomend Woodstock more and The Shire is a great place to stay! As I mentioned before stay tuned later this week for an indepth look at the Long Trail Brewery, Jasper Murdock Alehouse and Seven Barrels Brewery.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday Night Tasting - Clown Shoes: Hoppy Feet Black IPA

Clown Shoes - Hoppy Feet Black IPA
Contract Brewed by Mercury Brewing Co. - Ipswich, MA
7% ABV, 1pt 6oz

I picked up this bottle of Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet Black IPA a few weeks ago from Bin Ends in Braintree, MA. I have known about the brewery for a little while, but hadn't had one of their beers. I had also seen their Clementine brew on tap at the Union Brewhouse in Weymouth, and also at Bin Ends. Considering I'm not a big fruit beer guy, but for sure a hop head, I figured the Black IPA might be for me.

As you can see, the beer is dark as hell! It looks very similar to porters, but it has a very slight red tinge to it. However, you have to look at it from a few different angles to find it, or perhaps have a better lit room than my kitchen.

It pours a rich, foamy and fluffy head; although, truth be told I may have been a bit overzealous with my pour, in an attempt to get a good head on the beer. I definitely succeeded, but it could have been helped by the beer itself. Either way, I wasn't disappointed with the thickness of the head, which took a while to subside. The bouquet has a noticeable hop aroma, with a bit of sweetness and citrus tones.

This reminds me of the Schmaltz Brewing Co. labels!

Upon my first sip, it was noticeably bitter. It wasn't so much due to the hops, but rather the malt used in the brewing process. They use roasted and chocolate malts, which help give Hoppy Feet it's rich, black color, and full body. They also use Amarillo and Columbus hops, which according to my palate, took a back seat to the malt; however, they were in no way blind.

The weather is now conducive to heavier beers, such as Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet. The beer has a full mouth feel, without being too heavy. I think it would pair well with heavy stews, or braised meats.

The beer has many similar qualities to that of the Blue Hills Brewery Black Hops, which I reviewed in September (read our review here). So, if you enjoyed that beer, you should also enjoy Clown Shoes Hoppy Feet!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Curtis Liquors Fall Beer Tasting

This past Saturday, Sarah and I visited one of our favorite places to pick up good craft beers, Curtis Liquors, for their annual Fall Beer Tasting event. Now, we have been to a few of their other events in the past, as they tend to have monthly wine or beer tastings, but few have been of this magnitude.

They had 10-12 area and mostly regional craft breweries, showcasing their fall beers. Some beers we had tried before, and thankfully some we had not, but for the most part we had had something from just about every brewer that was represented.

Wachusett Brewing Co. had their awesome Milk Stout (read our review!), Winter (to be reviewed soon), and Larry Imperial IPA (Publick House series). They also had probably the most interesting rep pouring samples. He continuously questioned whether or not we could handle the Larry or Milk Stout - because they’re that good!

And speaking of their Milk Stout, it's being included in their new fall Box of Brews, which you should be able to find in most package stores that sell good beer! I have to say though, it was funny to see the Milk Stout in a 12 oz. bottle. It looked tiny, compared to the 22 oz. bomber!

Across the aisle was one of our favorite places to grab lunch, the Tap at the Haverhill Brewery. We tried, and of course liked, their HaverAle, and Homerun APA, but also got to try their La Dame de Peronne. The La Dame is a French-style beer, with similar qualities to Saisson and Maerzen beers. We picked up a bottle of this, and will be reviewing it next week!

Of course our friends at Harpoon Brewery were there, pouring samples of their Winter Warmer, and our new favorite Chocolate Stout.

If you haven’t had it, you have to check out the Stout. It’s brewed with quite a bit of chocolate malt, and even has chocolate in the recipe. It has a nice, noticeable dark chocolate flavor! It’s a seasonal beer, but can be found in six packs or their Wintry Mix 12-Pack.

Peak Organic Brewing Company was also pouring samples, located next to the Long Trail Brewing Co. table. Long Trail was serving up their Brewmaster Series Imperial Porter, which of course we picked up a bomber of, as well as their Ale (one of my favorite beers). We visited their brewery/brewpub back in 2008, and I’m excited to visit them again next weekend!

Otter Creek beers were being represented as well. Now, Sarah and I had a few different samples at the 2009 American Craft Beer Festival and were not all that impressed. There seemed to be some sort of off flavor throughout their beers. But, we learned that Otter Creek was purchased by the owners of Long Trail Brewery, and has installed a new brewer to tweak some of their recipes. The rep was nice enough to give us a few bottles of their Porter, so we have a base of comparison.

Mayflower Brewing Company was pouring their IPA (one of my favorite IPAs), and their limited edition Thanksgiving Ale (couldn’t grab any, but will look for it this weekend). We'll have to revisit their brewery soon, so we can try their soon to be released Imperial Stout (read our review from September). We also enjoyed samples from Troegs, 21st Amendment (straight from the can, which surprisingly was good), and Dogfish Head.

I was probably most excited though for the return of one of my favorite beers – Samuel Adams White Ale.

I’ve grown more into a hockey fan than any other sport; however, at one time the same could be said in regard to baseball. As soon as I had the first sip of White Ale, it instantly transported me back in time to April 2004 to April 2007 as the Red Sox opened their season. I would literally go through a twelve pack of this stuff a weekend I liked it so much. So as you would expect, I was heartbroken and very sad when I heard it was being replaced as the spring seasonal by the Nobel Pils. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Nobel Pils, but it’s no White Ale. Fortunately, I knew it wouldn’t be gone forever, and it has made its gracious return in the Sam Adams Winter Mix Pack, as well as my other favorite Old Fezziwig, Chocolate Bock, Winter Porter, Boston Lager, and Winter Ale.

One of our other favorites of the afternoon had to be the banana split beer.

It is made with one part Wells Banana Bread Beer (have you had it yet?), and three parts Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. We’ve had a lot of blended beers over the past month, such as the Pumpkin Pie in a glass (Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin, and Blue Fin Stout) and Apple Pie (Harpoon Cider and Munich Dark), and we plan on dedicated some time over the winter months to share our blended experiences with our readers!

We got to sample many great beers, and saved some cash when we loaded up on some of our new favorite beers. Did I mention that the tasting itself was free?

And of course at the end of the night, the owner of Curtis Liquors took a minute to address the crowd, thank them for coming, and to Vote "YES!" on Question #1! Obviously, from the numbers, many, many people did and it passed the first hurdle.

Naturally, Sarah and I were both in support of the repeal of the State Sales Tax on Liquor, and we made it a point to display our support after the tasting with a few drinks!