And now for our weekly Beer related musical number, I present Hank Williams Sr. singing the classic “Tears in my Beer.”
Monthly Archives: February 2011
Mondays I intend to devote to cooking with beer. I’ll start off with a simple favorite of mine, beer bread. First a little primer on quick breads:
What makes them quick is the fact that you don’t use yeast, so there’s no rise. All of the rise comes from the expansion of the liquid (in this case beer) when it’s converted to a gas, and the chemical reaction with the baking powder or soda. I like to think of it as a muffin in loaf form. Like a muffin, over mixing should be avoided at all costs. If you stir for longer than it takes the flour to get wet, you’ve mixed to long.
Now a couple of notes about choosing your ingredients. Please use good beer. Please. Your mouth and the mouths of everyone lucky enough to get a piece of the bread will thank you. When choosing a beer to use my rule of thumb goes like this: If I’ve seen it advertised on national T.V. it doesn’t go in my food. The theory goes like this: I’d like my beer choice to actually make a difference, which means, it has to have flavor. Flavor just happens to be what THOSE kind of beers lack (it’s actually what makes them popular, thanks Prohibition).
Try and match your spices\flavorings to beer you’ve added. I like cardamom and a little allspice or nutmeg with a lighter wheat beers, particularly a Belgian Wit, like Avery’s White Rascal; nice sharp cheddar, basil, and substituting in 1/2 cup of whole wheat works great with an English brown like Newcastle; or when I want to indulge my love of rye, swap in a half cup of rye flour and use Great Divide’s Hoss.
Now, here’s the your blank canvas to paint those flavors on.
Preheat the oven to 325
3 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
12 fl oz. of beer (room temperature)
Seasonings to taste (see above)
Mix dry ingredients together.
Make a well in the center and pour in beer, mixing until dry ingredients are just wet.
Place dough in greased bread pan.
Bake for 40-50 min. or until a toothpick inserted into middle comes out dry.
Let bread stand for 5 min. then remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
Yes the wire rack really is a necessary step. Otherwise the bottom half of the loaf gets gummy, and I’ve yet to meet somebody that prefers their bread gummy.
We all know the story, the earth rotates along an axis that’s titled in regard to the sun. At some point during the year, that axis is pointed away from the sun. Nights start to get longer, the leaves have fallen from the trees, what was a brisk autumn wind turns into a bitter winter chill, and the trip home seem to be slightly more motivated.
For everybody there’s some annual event that says “winter is here;” it might be the first snow, or it might be the sound of geese overhead. My wife marks the true beginning of the season by the first time it’s cold enough to need a sweater. For me, winter hasn’t begun until I’ve had my first bottle of that year’s Winter Welcome, a seasonal release by that venerable British brewery, Samuel Smith.
Somewhere in the realm of Old Ales and Barley Wine is a seasonal specialty called Winter Warmer. The name is both a description and an evocation. Traditionally, these beer are around 6%-8% Alcohol by volume, full of sweat malt and dark fruit flavors, some versions are spiced, others rely on the yeast for their complexity. The example in question pours out a brilliant amber with rich creamy head. The aroma is a mix of floral notes, honey and caramel sweetness. The flavor is much the same, with added apple undertones, and a very subdued spice presence (from the yeast; this is an un-spiced version). Perhaps understated for those expecting a big American Barley Wine style beer, but for those willing to appreciate it on it’s own terms, a true pleasure.
My ritual to begin the season is a simple synthesis of many of the comforts I’ve grown to enjoy. The beer sits in my cellar, waiting for that first cold night of the year. Then, following a simple meal of hearty stew and home-made bread, I pour the beer into a goblet and spend the next hour or so savoring it and whatever book I happen to be reading at the time.
Of course this ritual gets repeated over the course of the winter with a variety of beers. Other favorite warmers include: Avery’s Old Jubilation,which like most beers from Avery is on the “big” end of the style; Never Summer Ale from Boulder beer, perhaps a little hoppy for the style, but a little hops never hurt anyone; and Breckenbridge’s Christmas Ale, one of the darker examples of the style I’ve seen. I’m also bound to include some other winter seasonal favorites, Winter Warlock (a solid Oatmeal Stout from Bristol), and Left Hand’s ever-changing Fade to Black (Winter of ‘09/’10 gave us a Tropical Stout and ‘10/’11 gave us an incredibly interesting Smoked Baltic Porter), usually make an appearance or two.
The cold of winter serves to remind us of just how warming the simple pleasure really are.