One more nickle in the machine

One of the most soulful sad songs of all time. Not surprisingly, it involves alcohol.


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The Bizzare and the Beautiful

On very rare occasions a muse takes a physical form. In this instance, I was making a batch of beer waffles, when she decided to incarnate herself as a layer of congealed fat.  You see, I added melted butter to cold beer, and sure enough exactly what my high-school level knowledge of physics said should happen  happened; I got a layer of butter fat floating on top of some slightly warmer beer.

I tasted it.

It was beautiful.

My theory is that the butter fat solids had separated out, and when they re-solidified the water that was trapped was contained beer flavor compounds (I have nothing to base that on, but seems right to me).

So, of course I spent the next several days trying to figure out a use for this “beer butter. ” The short list includes: compound butter for steaks, stout flavored butter cream frosting, and a great spread for grilled bread.

I had the opportunity to test the last one first, with a few augmentations.
Note: I used a whole beer because I was going to use it in a sauce later, you could just as easily use some smaller quantity.

12 oz. cold milk stout

1/2 Stick butter

1 Tbsp bacon grease

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 loaf good crusty bread, cut into slices.

Melt butter and bacon grease and dump into beer.

Stick mixture in fridge for 30. min until a layer of grease has solidified on top, remove grease from beer.

Add garlic powder to grease, and whisk until creamy

Spread mixture on bread, place butter up on a grill until bottom is brown and grease is melted (2-3 min) then flip and leave for additional 1-2 min.


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Book Review: Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl

This book has almost nothing to do with beer. However, it has quite a bit to do with booze in general.

If you’re the sort of person that geeks out over food and drink, you’ll probably really enjoy this book. It’s well written, heavily researched, and full of first hand accounts of the sort that generally we’re now reduced to read reading about in 140 characters or less. My favorite is a story of an admiral who made a bowl of punch so large that a ship’s boy rowed around in the middle of it serving the punch to the guests.

The book’s divided into three sections, the first being a general history of the different punches in general and their main ingredients. The second is smaller than the other two, and amounts to an extremely technical discussion of the art of punch making. The third is 30 or so authentic punch recipes, with the original and then the authors best guess on how to approximate it using modern ingredients. It has the distinction of having recipes that include two of the oddest ingredients I’ve ever seen: ambergris and hydrochloric acid.

This book is good, if you happen to be a member of the target audience.If you’re a major food\beverage geek like me, check it out. If you’re a history buff, check it out. If not, well the author is talented but he’s not the Carl Sagan of Punch.


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Beer in review: Chicken Killer

In an effort to actually get myself to do regular posts on this blog, I’ve decided to do add a feature, in which I review beers.

First a little fact that may or may not be relevant: I have a beer bottle collection. It has gotten mildly ridiculous at 210 Bottles, but at this point it’s too more work to get rid of than it is to keep adding to it.  So the vicious cycle continues. A good number of the beers I review will come from that collection, but since I’ve got a few arbitrary rules that have kept the collection from taking over the entirety of the house, there will be some that didn’t make the cut that are worth reviewing.

In honor of last weekends Mike The Headless Chicken Day celebration (no really, it’s a real thing, see), I’m going to start off with Sante Fe Brewing’s Chicken Killer Barley Wine.

If the goal was to make a big beer, then it was met. This beer is about 10% abv, and all the flavors have plenty of heft.  This is defiantly a malt centered beer, with the caramel and toffee flavors leading the way, there’s some underlying dark fruit flavors, but over all it wasn’t as complex as I like my Barley Wines. It was probably  modeled after the original English Version of the style; hops play a supporting role. This was over all a solid beer, but nothing exceptional.

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If I had Possession..

In honor of the up coming apocalypse let me present a list of appropriately named beers that I’ve had:

  • La Fin Du Monde (Unibroue)
  • Hades (Great Divide)
  • Belzebuth (Brasserie Grain d’ Orge)
  • Damnation (Russian River)
  • Salvation (Russian river)
  • Salvation (Avery)
  • Hog Heaven (Avery)
  • Judgement Day (Lost Abbey)
  • Ragnarok Smoked Lager (Elysian)
  • Duvel (Duvel)
  • Old Nick (Youngs)

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Venison Shanks Ala Carbonadesque

This is less a recipe and more an insight into how I cook.

I decided last weekend to have a few friends over to celebrate the successful birth of my daughter (my main contribution to that was getting a wife with good child bearing hips and questionable taste in husbands).  I also decided to use up some of  those shanks I had in my freezer.

Now I’m pretty sure there’s really only way to cook shanks, braising. So, all I had to do was come up with a braising liquid. I decided the occasion called for something a bit more special than the usual pot roast preparation (as good as that is). I also happened to notice that a near by liquor store had <i>Rodenbach, </i> a Flemish Brown, on sale. Great, so I went to pick one up. They were out.

Well by this point I had my heart set on shanks braised in  some Oud Bruin. So I did the only reasonable thing, I got out a bottle of Left Hand’s Milk Stout and my bottle of balsamic vinegar  and started mixing. I chose milk stout because it was what I had in my fridge.  I would’ve used a Scottish Ale (medium strength, not a wee heavy or export strength) or even an Marzen if I had them. I was mainly looking to avoid too much hop presence (hops get too much pretty quick when you reduce the liquid for a sauce), and get some fruit flavors from the esters (I helped those flavors out a little later). I found that a 3:1 Ratio beer:vinegar was good enough for jazz.

So, after preheating the oven to 250 (since part of the point of braising is that the cooking liquid never gets hotter than whatever the boiling temperature is at your particular elevation {otherwise it stops being the cooking liquid and starts being the cooking steam} I don’t see the point in keeping the rest of the oven much hotter than that), I: seasoned the shanks with salt and pepper and put them (I had six) in a roasting pan just big enough to hold them all in a single layer; add a couple of diced onions; poured in 1 12 oz. bottle of milk stout and 1/2 C of balsamic vinegar, and enough home-made game stock to come half way up the meat; covered the whole thing with a double layer of tin-foil; and stuck it in the oven for the foreseeable future.

I checked the liquid a couple of times, and flipped the shanks over once or twice, and several (I think it was around 5 or 6) hours later pulled the whole thing out. I pulled the shanks out, covered them with foil, and set them aside. I then reduced the liquid to half of the original volume, and in a stroke of inspiration added about 1/4 c of our home-made choke cherry syrup. I also added a goodly quantity (I forgot to measure, sorry) of herbs de provence. The sauce was rich enough it didn’t need any extra fat, and I had plans for the left overs, that didn’t include gravy, so I didn’t thicken it with starch, it was just a classic reduction sauce.

I served the whole shebang with fresh green-beans and a basic brown-rice pilaf. Unfortunately the guy who was supposed to bring the  beer (New Glarus’s <i> Wisconsin Red, </i>a traditional Kriek that’s as hard to get outside of Wisconsin as it is delicious) had a sick kid, and didn’t want me to end up with a sick baby, so we a great Argentinian table wine instead.

Note: For Carbonade (the traditional Belgian Stew this was roughly based on) you can look here. I guess you could probably use my improvised Oud Bruin for that recipe as well, but if you do, I’ll be disappointed. If you’re o.k. with that (I usually am) knock yourself out.

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Oatmeal Stout Panna Cotta

Stolen from The Naked Pint, and delicious sounding.  If you can’t find an oatmeal stout, a chocolate or milk stout would work equally well. You’re going for roasty coffee\coco notes. I’d avoid Irish stouts as they tend to be a bit thin and may even be a little sour. If you can’t find creme fraiche, use sour cream. A metal mixing bowl placed over a pan of boiling water works for a double boiler.

1 1/2 tsp gelatin

2 Tbs cold water

1 1/4 cups Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

3/4 C whole milk

3/4 C plus 1 C whipping cream

1 vanilla been, cut length wise and with the pulp scraped out or 1-2 Tsp vanilla extract.

2/3 C sugar

2/3 C plus 2 Tablespoons creme fraiche

In a double boiler  mix gelatin and water and set aside.

Over medium heat bring stout to a boil and reduce beer to a 3/4 C.

In a nother pot, combine milk 3/4 C cream, vanilla and sugar, bring to a boil.

Place water and gelatin over boiling water in lower half of double boiler, and stir the gelatin until dissolved. Whisk into cream mixture.

Whisk in stout, and then 2/3 C creme fraiche.

Strain and put in serving bowls, chill for 6 hours.

Whip remaining cream and creme fraiche into soft peaks.

Top panna cotta with whipped cream.


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Book review and appologies

After a month or so vacation, all of which I’m going to blame on the recent birth of my second child (which happened roughly a week ago), I’m back. With a book review.

<i> The Naked Pint </i> may or may not be worth reading. It’s aimed mainly at women folk, which the publisher sort of lets you figure out on your own. I  got the feeling the authors were out to jam in every joke they’ve ever thought of about any given topic they cover. If there’s a sentence without a punchline shoehorned in that book,  It’s hiding somewhere in the copyright information.

That said, they actually do know their stuff beer wise, and most of the jokes are actually amusing. The course they’ve outlined for introducing yourself to different styles does make sense. It starts off with those styles best suited to modern American taste, and works it’s way towards the “serious” styles. Also, if you’re the kind of person that likes to have handy dandy lists of beers around, they’ve got you covered.  They also have some delicious looking recipes in the back that I’ll share at some point.

So all and all, I’d give this book a resounding “it was o.k.” I’m not sure I’ll read it cover to cover again, but I’ll probably check out their recommendations before heading to the local dealer of vice.

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Bluebeard’s Cellar

Whenever I mention that I have beer in my cellar, people generally just make up excuses to stop talking to me.  Unlike when my mom suddenly remembers that she promised a friend she’d help them sort their button collection, I can pretend that people actually made it past those words word of this paragraph without walking away.

Now, those lucky few who I imagine are reading this may be asking themselves, “aside from the fact that beer geeks feel compelled to try and prove to everyone they know that beer is as sophisticated a booze as wine, why would anyone cellar beer”

The simple answer is: It changes the flavor. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing. The key is not just spending a year throwing away money by picking beers where that change is a good thing. Generally, that means a big complex beer. Bottle Conditioning (having yeast in the bottle) is also a big plus. Oh, and most beers funky and\or Belgian get funkier and Belgianier.

So without further ado, here is what’s in my cellar.

1.2007 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Port casks.

2.Boulevard Brewing Company Harvest Dance

3. Boulevard Brewing Company Chocolate Ale

4. Great Divide Hades Tripel

5. Widmere Brothers w’11 KGB Imperial Stout.


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One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you John Lee Hooker


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