Category Archives: Misc.

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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Chiliski

Or rather Chili. Aside from roasting large hunks of venison, this is my favorite dish to cook, and the one I’m most proud of.

Now I realize that there’s something about stews that makes rabid traditionalists of us all. From Cassoulet to Goulash to Gumbo, there’s only one right way to make the stew, and it just so happens to be the way the person you’re talking to does it.  This is where I’m more open minded than most, I make no claim to authenticity, or even exclusivity. This just happens to be the way I like my chili. You can feel free to disagree; I’m sure whatever heathen idols you worship will take pity on your soul.

Notes:

This is less a recipe and more of a process. I hardly ever measure my ingredients, and generally pick my peppers based on what looks good at the market. The whole point in my opinion is to build complexity and flavor at every step. For more information on my general stewing procedure, (and an evangelical exposition on good ingredients in general, and the good news of bacon grease in particular) check out my Beef Carbonade  recipe Here.

I know many of you are probably used to seeing ground meat in your chili. I use stew meat, it holds up to prolonged cooking much better.

If you don’t happen to have Venison and Antelope on hand, I guess you could use beef.

I like sweet Malty beers with and my chili, Scottish ales, Oktoberfests\Marzens,  and dupplebocks all make the list.

About the peppers: Use whatever kind you want, I like a variety in both bell and chili and generally cut them into different sized pieces so I can tell them apart;  the hotter the pepper the smaller the piece.

If you’re using really hot peppers, wear gloves and wash your hand 3 or 4 times before touching anything… sensitive.

About the spices: This is a pretty mild mix heat wise, partially because of me not using any hot fresh peppers.  My personal experience is that chili powder adds heat to the beginning of  the bite, and cayenne adds it towards the end. I like a balanced heat, but since most chili powders are a spice mix rather than just powdered chili, be aware that adding it will add other flavors.

To serve this I make rice and beans to mix in (I skip the beans), top with a boatload of cheese, and sour cream to cut the heat.  Oh and corn bread.

Chiliski,

ingredients

Bacon Grease

1 lb. venison (I like Mule-deer for stew)

1lb Pronghorn Antelope

2-3 Bell peppers

2-3 chili peppers

10-12 fluid oz. beer

1 onion (diced)

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

2 tsp Chili powder

1 tsp cayanne

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cummin

1/4 tsp ginger

2 tsp Brown Sugar

2 Tsp Molasses

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 spoonful coco powder

Preheat oven to 250

In a large dutch oven, heat fat and brown meat over high heat. You’ll probably need to do several batches, you want plenty of space between the pieces. Also, by brown I mean the kind of brown you want the outside of your steak; you’re looking to create new flavors by taking advantage of the Maillard reaction.

Set meat and any juices aside, add fat if necessary and turn down heat.

Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent, add bell peppers saute for a few min. more, add chili peppers and saute for another 2-3 min. Add meat back into pan.

Add beer. You want the beer to come up about 2/3rds of the way to 3/4 of the way up the meat and veggies. If you need more liquid, stock is always better than water; water dilutes flavors, stock adds them.

Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven for 45 min-hour. Remove from oven and taste broth. Stir in spices except for coco powder.

I like to add the heat I want, and then adjust the other spices accordingly. You could make a pretty convincing argument for doing it the other way around. Replace lid, return to oven.  I usually cook it for another 2-3 hours, adjusting the spices every 45. min or so, but really it’s done as soon as the meat is cooked and tender, generally an hour later. Once you’re done cooking the chili stir in coco powder.

Let cool and put it in the fridge overnight one-three days.

Reheat, top, and enjoy.

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Gone Fishin’

Two events unrelated events have gotten me thinking about the same subject. The first was my reading of The Dome by Stephen King . The second was buying a six-pack of Sam Adam’s Noble Pils. I really like a good number of Stephen King’s books, they’re not great works of literature, but  they’re generally decent enough stories and fairly entertaining reads. I especially look forward to the inevitable Deus Ex Machina, which are nothing if not creative and generally of an unexpected nature. I also, like many craft brew drinkers, have a soft spot for Sam Adams. It was my introduction to the spectrum of beer  beyond the usual cheap beer that dominates fridges everywhere, and most of their products are good, well made beers.

Both the Pils and the book were disappointments, and both seemed gimicky.  In the book’s case, the god’s exit from his machine seems forced and lackluster.  In Sam Adam’s case it seemed like what is a good idea (using all of the noble hops varieties for a Bohemian Pilsner), was just so badly executed that the drinker was left with the impression that more effort went into thinking of the name than went into testing the recipe. In fact, it seemed like the brew master was thinking that a pilsner is just the German version of an IPA. The beer was remarkably similar Left Hand’s Oxymoron (which I enjoyed, there’s a lesson about the power of expectations in there somewhere), not exactly what you’d want from something billing itself as a “traditional Bohemian Pilsner.”

Which brings me to the topic of my rumination, the difference between a gimmick and a hook. I was forced to bring in consultation. After a great dinner of roasted chicken, and several beers (including some of what was left of the offending Sam Adams), my brother and I hit on the answer, execution. A hook grabs your interest, which is kept by everything else about the beer. A gimmick may grab your attention, but once it has it is at a loss for the next step.

Rather than dwell on the unsatisfying experiences of a gimmicky beer, let’s take a look at some notable beers with a good hook. For the fruit lovers, there is Breckenridge’s Agave Wheat.  Which adds a sweet, bright touch to an American Wheat beer, make sure to vigorously rouse the yeast when pouring, or you’ll be missing a good part of the spiced notes  Wheat beers are known for. Which brings us to something with some real spices,  Route des espices. This is a unique rye ale, with a combination of black and green peppercorns added.  Finally, for the hop-heads, Lagunita’s Hop Stupid Ale. While flirting with the line between “very hoppy” and “hop tea,” it’s got more than enough malt backing to give your tongue something to keep it’s interest once it recovers from the initial blast. The hook? The proud use of hop extract.

So, the question is, what’s your favorite hook?

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