Friday, December 30, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 3

Beer #3 on my “12 Beers of Christmas & Beyond” List happens to coincide with our recent getaway to the New River. (I plan to post about the trip later)

So beer# 3 is in honor of our trip and the fantastic cabin we disappeared to for a couple of days, and maybe a bit of wishful thinking for the white stuff as well.
Cabin Fever
Brown Ale
6% ABV
Dark brown in color with a foamy caramel colored head, aroma of malts and roasted oats,  more roasted flavor with a hint of chocolate and some sweetness to counter the mild bitterness, balanced for a brown ale, and quite drinkable.   
Last winter we picked up some of New Holland’s Cabin Fever prior to one of the “major” snow storms that Virginia experienced.
As it turns out we were holed up at home for several days and the Cabin Fever came in quite handy, if not a bit ironic, so it comes as no surprise that this brown ale made its way onto my list at #3 while we were “stuck” in a cabin over the last few days…
I paired the Cabin Fever with hamburger sliders & shrimp skewers that we grilled on our Weber "Q" travel grill on the deck of the cabin as the New River danced in the distant darkness.
Perfect combination 


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 4

Beer #4 on my “12 Beers of Christmas & Beyond” List accompanied Christmas dinner.

It just so happens that this was the “4th” year we have hosted Christmas dinner at the house.
For the last 4 years we prepared a relatively formal dinner for the family, but we have always felt like we were missing the mark, as if our vision for the holiday wasn’t being fully realized.
Things always seemed rushed at best and we simply couldn’t wrap our minds around the issue at hand.
This year we decided to scrap the formal “traditional” style sit down dinner for heavy hors d’oeuvres and a  casual “come as you are” vibe through-out the day.
It worked, dinner was a hit, and everyone seemed relaxed, in the moment, and satisfied to be with family.
So to try and pair beer #4 with a specific food would be an exercise in futility, so think of it as an addition to the eclectic yet scrumptious menu.
The feast included the following homemades;  
-          Seared- smoked then slow cooked venison BBQ sliders

-          Mini- Crab cakes with tartar sauce

-          Grilled Prosciutto wrapped asparagus

-          Herbed goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers  

-          Mini-Shrimp stuffed mushroom caps

-          Bacon wrapped- BBQ shrimp

-          Tortellini & mozzarella skewers

-          Grilled potato skins

-          Two types of roasted pork tenderloin (Thanks to Sarah)

The beginning of the seared & smoked Venison BBQ before it went into the crock pot 
In at #4;

Shiner Holiday Cheer

Fruit Beer/ Dunkelweizen
Spoetzl Brewery/ (Gambrinus Company)
5.4% ABV
Light brown in color, fruity in aroma, taste of peaches with malt and spices.  Mellow but you definitely get the fruit and wheat.  


12 Beers of Christmas; Number 5

Beer #5  on my “12 Beers of Christmas & Beyond”  List comes from the United Kingdom, and a brewery that I certainly haven’t heard of, so it should come as no surprise that #5 made it to the list on its “cheeky” name alone.

Ridgeway Brewery, United Kingdom / (Imported by Shelton Brothers)
8% ABV

Lump of Coal Stout’s label reads;
Looking forward to a depressing holiday? Here is liquid consolation. This 8% bittersweet chocolate stout is the best you could hope for in these dark times. Actually, come to think of it, considering how bad you’ve been, this little coal-black gem is more than you deserve for Christmas this year.
Depressing huh? Or maybe they are realist over there in the UK…
(Got to love that English sarcasm)
I was kind of concerned that Lump of Coal was going to be more gimmicky than anything else, but my fears were put to rest as I poured the beer.
The stout was black in color with little to no head which was caramel colored, with an aroma of coffee, dark chocolate and roasted malts.
I tasted some coffee bean, a hint of licorice, malty with a bit of balanced sweetness to bitter ratio.
Beer #5 was quite “even keel” for a Stout, smooth & drinkable, not the strongest stout on the market but good none the less.
I didn’t pair this one with food as I typically drink stouts without accompaniments.


Friday, December 23, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 6

Beer #6

Its basic math, there is one full day before Christmas and I am on #6 of my “12 Beers of Christmas” List, so I have two choices.

A.      I can attempt to drink 5 more beers and post about them before Christmas day (could wind up bad)

B.       The list can continue past Christmas and end on New Years instead, which I am more inclined to do as I don’t want to rush any parings.
Just so you know that I wasn’t intentionally being lazy with my beer list, my internet provider and their revolutionary 4G service crashed for two days this week leaving me “internet-less”, rest assured that I continued to drink beer, but posting from out here in the country was not happening…
As it goes #6 was supposed to coincide with December 22 & the “Winter Solstice” for which the beer is named.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company, Boonville California
6.9% ABV
Herb/Spice/ Vegetable style Ale
Gorgeous copper is color, malty aroma, and doughy taste with a hint of spice and mellow honey or maybe even brown sugar.
This beer is delicious seriously, I love that sweetness in the finish, it has sky rocketed to my top 10 list of favorite beers.
It’s one of those ales that I could envision would fuel the adventurer’s spirit to sail around the globe in search of this tasty brew, no really, like Spanish conquistadors & roving pirates off Cape Horn. “I’m just saying” 
Also try their Amber Ale which is on par and just as delicious, great beer, no BS.   
Paired with homemade cranberry walnut bread made with Grand Marnier, fabulous…


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 7

Beer #7 hails from Brooklyn New York. If for whatever reason your southern sensibility can’t comprehend a craft brew coming from New York City, put your preconceived notions on the shelf, because these guys make great stuff.

For example, if you are really into Stouts you should absolutely try Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout which in my humble opinion sets the bar high for Imperial Stouts.
That being said, #7 on my holiday list is Brooklyn’s Winter Ale.

Scottish Style Ale
Brooklyn Brewery….Uh, Brooklyn…
6.0% ABV
Pours amber to copper in color, very balanced and drinkable, caramel aroma with relatively light “hoppyness”, taste of low key sweetness and malts, definitely more malty that hop feel, very “even keel” tasting Scottish Ale that doesn’t get lost in translation should you have more than one.
We paired it with a grilled shrimp salad which may have been a bit “under gunned” as far as being too light but it worked out fine.  Brooklyn recommends heartier winter fare of stews pork & duck.
I would definitely have a six pack of these sitting around on deck.


Monday, December 19, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 8

Beer #8 on my “12 Beers of Christmas” list comes from a brewery that makes one of my all time favorite brews in their Hazel Nut Brown Nectar, I absolutely love that beer, but Rouge Ales aren’t always the cheapest of craft beers and as much as I hate to admit it I don’t always want to drop 11 or 12 bucks on a 6 pack. That being said, Rouge’s American Amber Ale & Mocha Porter can be found in my beer cabinet on a semi regular basis.

Red (Amber) Ale
Rogue Ales, Newport Oregon
6% ABV
Santa’s Private reserve is dark amber in color with a strong floral aroma, crisp presentation & HUGE hop taste, certainly not for the faint of heart, (as Santa can certainly attest to)…  
While Rogue suggest serving the ale with beef or pork, I opted to sample this brew all by its lonesome, as I feel that really hoppy brews can sometimes overpower food and are better enjoyed alone.
I may or may not have a few Rouge pint glasses and a T-shirt from the company, (I’m brand loyal like that).  
So should you find yourself on the island of misfit toys, Santa’s Special Reserve may help you along the way.

Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas, Number 9

New Belgium Snow Day

 Every time I say “number 9” I think of that trippy Beatles song…
Beer #9 on my “12 Beers of Christmas” list is from a Brewery who until recently wasn’t even available in the “Old Dominion”, so I was stoked to see New Belgium beers on the shelves of our local beer purveyors.
Not to mention that I have yet to sample a beer from New Belgium’s quiver that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed.

New Belgium Snow Day
IPA (Back)
New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins CO
 6.2% ABV

Dark copper to red color, Hints of pine and grass in aroma, mellow hoppy flavor with some nuttiness but not like a bold IPA, looks heavy but very crisp and easy to drink.
Paired with Grilled chicken & sweet potato salad mixed with red & white onions, peperoncinis, tomatoes, carrots & goat cheese
New Belgium Snow Day makes the 12 Beers of Christmas list because it reminds me that at this very same time last year I was freezing my arse off during a 2 week school at Fort Pickett where it was so cold that we literally stuck to the ground during one iteration and were plagued by sudden winter storms that would blow in and shut the entire base down with 14 degree temps.
In contrast to this yuletide season where “balmy” 50 to 60 degree temps make me long for a little of the white stuff to accent the holidays, but then sitting back on my deck sampling seasonal brews & staring at the stars isn't a bad gig either...

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Winter Sun’s Reign

Did you get an opportunity to see the sunset this evening?

The sun set fire to the horizon as it bowed below the western sky.

And it was amazing…

Side note: I realize the picture quality is not what it should be; I was snapping photos with the cell phone as I made my way home along country roads.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas; Number 10

Lagunitas “sucks” Holiday Ale, “Brown Shugga’ Substitute”

Beer #10 on my “12 Beers of Christmas” list coincides with the celebration of a milestone birthday for my wife,

Check out the rest of the story here; "A Well Spiced Life"

It also didn’t hurt that my father had just returned from a successful fishing outing on the bay and hooked us up with several beautiful rockfish steaks.    
So my gift to Ash was a candlelit rockfish dinner for two…
I looked at my plethora of holiday brews that are waiting in the pantry, and picked the ale with the incredibly long name to have with dinner…

American Strong Ale, (akin to IPAs)
Petaluma, California
7.6 % ABV
A deep golden color, aromas of citrus with a slight alcohol flavor and hints of honey
Paired with fresh caught Chesapeake Bay Rockfish (by my dad) in several iterations
-          Grilled eggplant medallions toped with parmesan cheese and Balsamic reduction

-          Maryland rockfish & seafood soup

-          Grilled rockfish steaks over Israeli cous cous tossed with green peppers, red onions & mushrooms

The Lagunitas Holiday Ale was PHENOMENAL, one of the best beers I have had, I love a beer that has sweet undertones, and this beer did not disappoint, I can’t say enough about the flavor of this beer and while I don’t do it justice in my description it is truly delicious…but dangerous, the 7.6 %ABV can hurt you because of it’s incredible drinkability.

"It also doesn't hurt that Lagunitas adorns their label with a Pitbull that resembles our beloved Blitzy". 
98% score on Ratebeer, (it’s that good)

12 Beers of Christmas, Number 11

Bells Christmas Ale

 Scotch Ale

5.5 % ABV
Amber in color, very drinkable for a scotch ale, subdued flavors with a hint of toffee and slight citrus aroma
Paired with marinated grilled chicken, asparagus spears & grilled steak fries with Sriracha BB-Q sauce
Bells brewery has some fantastic beers, their Ambers, Stouts, and Porters are by in large some of my favorite and most frequently purchased beers so their Christmas Ale was an obvious choice for me.
That being said, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the brewery that makes “Two Hearted Ale” which has incredible flavor and aroma, so I was surprised by just how drinkable and mellow their Christmas Ale is.
Great option if you want to drink several to toast the holidays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

12 Beers of Christmas

With all of the incredible seasonal craft beers available during the holidays I thought it would be cool to showcase 12 different offerings that embrace the spirit of the Christmas season.

For the sake of continuity each “beer find” for my holiday dozen will contain the following information;

-The Beer name and type
 -The Brewery & its location
-Alcohol content
-The beer’s basic taste and complexity
-What food I opted to pair with the beer (If any)
- Why I chose the particular beer to be one of the “12 Beers of Christmas”
Beer Number 12
To kick off the festivities I give you Beer #12 on my holiday list.
10° Below Ale, Imperial dunkelweiss
ScuttleButt Brewing Company, Everett Washington
7.4% alcohol by volume
A medium volume ale very dark copper in color with a sweet aroma and hints of citrus with a  strong chocolate finish
Paired with grilled pork chops & portabella mushrooms in creamed spinach 
 10° Below Ale made the “12 beers of Christmas” list because I have had other Scuttlebutt beers and  really liked them.
Besides the bottle has a Polar Beer wearing a scarf, you can’t get much more Holiday than that.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hail to the Winter Grill

The temperature drops, and the evening hours become crisp and clear, I don my down jacket for my favorite season of grilling out.   

In the distance roving bands of hounds chase their barks through the night air. 

The grill sizzles and pops as the unmistakable aroma of seared sustenance waifs through the country air. 

 Hail to the winter grill. 

Grilled Salmon fillet with green apple & horseradish garnish
Grilled Mussels with garlic, sundried tomatoes, onions & olives
Seasonal Ales complete the composition; biding my time with sips of spice and malt during the minutes of grilling magic. 

This is Living

New Belgium’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale
A 94 user rated score on "Rate beer".
Malty, chocolate, but really smooth to drink