Monday, December 29, 2008

Texas, Beer, and UFOs

Thank you, Lee

I had the GREATEST time hanging out with the KC-beer-blogging (and drinking) mini-gang Lee assembled on Friday night. We went to 75th Street and occupied at least a couple of tables for a handful of hours. I can't remember everything we talked about, but the topics of conversation included beer, Oregon, knitting, running, swimming, losing weight, and homebrewing. I can't even begin to do the evening justice, so I'll just say that I enjoyed the company to the fullest and was so glad that I went.

Lee was also kind enough to bring some Texas beer with him - Saint Arnold Christmas Ale & Real Ale Firemans #4.  I'm currently enjoying the Christmas ale - YUM, thank you! I have yet to crack open the #4 but probably will tomorrow.

Upon the mention of Texas beer, I shared a story about the time I went to Dallas for work and spent a lovely Wednesday evening at the Flying Saucer in Addison to get some work & drinking done (multi-tasking is a beautiful thing). Long story short, the place was packed so I grabbed a spot at a table in the corner where a middle-aged guy was working with his laptop. I thought for sure I'd get some work done. I thought wrong. I ordered a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (which I can't get in KC and miss dearly) and it all started from there. The guy wouldn't stop talking! I learned a lot about Texas brewing and was even encouraged to try a beer I wouldn't have otherwise tried - Live Oak Hefeweizen. It's a German-style hefeweizen and absolutely delicious. It reminded me a lot of Paulaner, which I think is a fantastic representation of German hefe. I also ordered an Arrogant Bastard and the talking continued. 

I didn't get a lot of work done that night, but I did learn a lot about goings-on in Texas... most of which I've since forgotten. I will not, however, forget that glass of Live Oak.

Which also brings me to the 2nd of two things I came here to post. It irritates me that Flying Saucer in KC is located in the P&L district. Not only is that area not my type of hang-out, I'm just not keen on hose planned urban "entertainment centers" with their targeted dress codes and sugary sweet vodka "martinis" (IT'S NOT A MARTINI!) and "sexy co-ed" ads etc etc... 

What was I saying? Oh yeah, Flying Saucer. As I mentioned, I was in the Addison location on a Wednesday night. At every location it seems, Wednesday night is Pint Night where you can get a pint glass of their featured brewery & keep the glass. This December, KC's Flying Saucer featured Chimay, Gouden Carolus, and La Chouffe. January's beers are yet TBD, but I'd keep my eye on their calendar. December looked like a good month to add to the glassware collection.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well here we are on yet another Christmas day. We don't really do Christmas, outside of presents and sometimes dinner. This year I couldn't be bothered to make a nice dinner, so beer & presents it is. I made cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast, though, so surely that counts for something.

We bottled John's smoked porter today - pictured there on the right. We made it on Thanksgiving with his mom and bottled it on Christmas day. Surely it deserves a holiday-related name. Fireside Smoked Porter? Yuletide Smoked Porter? Shopping Frenzy Smoked Porter, perhaps...

Tuesday night, I picked up an Ommegang Gift Box at Royal off State Line. It contains Chocolate Indulgence, Hennepin, and Three Philosophers, as well as a nice Ommegang glass (essentially a large flute). I can't remember the exact price, but I think it was $23.99. It was somewhere in that neighborhood anyway. We cracked open the Three Philosophers that night and it was enjoyable, as always. Someone was thinking when they blended Kriek with Belgian strong ale. It has a perfect balance of strong, Belgian fruitiness with a dry cherry flavor. It's not sweet like the Framboise lambic is by itself. I've always enjoyed it, but am moving it up on my "beers I enjoy" list as of late. 

I worked half a day on Christmas Eve, then spent the evening at Waldo Pizza (where they have Boulevard Single Wide on tap), enjoying some of a 12" Choice Cut pizza. Whoever decided bacon on pizza was a good idea should win some sort of prize. I enjoyed a delicious Avery Reverend, which they had on tap. John had a Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, followed by a Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye (my favorite Bear Republic!), both also on draught.

We then came home and polished off the other two Ommegang bottles, which was an extremely good idea. We started with Hennepin... Now, I'm not a big Saison person. I do, however, appreciate a good one when I taste it and Hennepin is one of them. It has more hop profile than a typical Belgian Saison, which I think makes it a more remarkable beer. I found myself wanting to pair it with a cave-aged Gouda (but then, I pretty much want to eat cheese with anything).

Instead, we just moved on to Chocolate Indulgence. This beer is so fantastic, it is worth trying at least once even if you don't think you're going to like it. It's a pretty complex stout, bringing out not only flavors of chocolate, but ones of roasted coffee and caramel as well. The chocolate is definitely detectable, but not overwhelming. The hoppiness is rather forward, which I prefer, and balances the maltiness of the ale extremely well. I highly recommend this one, even if you're not a "chocolate beer" fan. 

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Carry A Nation and the temporary temperence

We took a trek out to Free State this afternoon to sample their current offerings. I had Santa's Helper, which is a Belgian-style IPA:
Inspired by a Belgian beer that itself was inspired by American craft brewers and their propensity for hoppy beers, this Belgian Holiday IPA illustrates the ever-evolving brewing landscape.  This beer starts with a generous portion of pilsner malt augmented by an addition of cane sugar to the kettle.  Judicious amounts of Simcoe, Centennial, Sterling, Amarillo, Chinook, and Columbus hops contribute to the uniquely American citrus and pine characteristics of this international brew.  The Belgian yeast strain adds fruity and earthy overtones that meld harmoniously with the complex hop bill. O.G.17.6/1071, IBUs - 48
I liked it quite a bit, but it's not my favorite from Free State. I'd rather have Chouffe Dobbelen if I want a good Belgian IPA (yes, I know they're not exactly the same style, but let me have my druthers). It wasn't bad, don't get me wrong. I'd definitely buy it again. I just don't think it's my favorite from Free State. I also tried a Black Velvet, a stout + sparkling wine. I've never had it and figured I'd give it a shot. Not my best move. Way too much wine and not enough stout, but I'm sure a lot of people prefer it that way. I might try making my own some time, with maybe 75% stout and 25% wine. It wasn't bad by far; the proportions just weren't to my liking. I had the avocado chimichurri for dinner, which was fantastic. Aside from their ham sandwich special, this is the best item I've had from their food menu.

While trying to ignore the screaming child at the table next to us, I read the backs of our menus. Each described tidbits about Kansas' temperence & prohibition history. I learned about Carrie Moore, aka Carrie Nation, aka Carry A Nation, who would take hatchets to bars in protest of alcohol. And I mean she took the hatchets TO the bars. As in, hacking the hell out of the bar itself. She was 1900's version of the black-hoodie Starbucks-window-smashing "anarchist", I guess.

Being from Oregon, pretty much the only history I know about this part of the country has to do with the Oregon Trail. As an aside, I was pretty excited when I found out that Independence, MO was so close to KC. Still haven't been out there, though. Anyway, it's interesting to read about John Brown, state-level prohibition, and other components of Kansas' history. Especially in conjunction with Missouri's laissez-faire attitude toward alcohol.

I also learned about John Walruff and his efforts to fight prohibition in Kansas. After state constitutional prohibition, he continued brewing but made a "medicinal malt drink" that was the same beer he'd been brewing. He just "prescribed" it. After getting tired of paying fines & fighting court battles, he relocated to Missouri.

Here's to you, John Walruff, and your medicinal tonic.

I highly recommend reading about brewing in Kansas at Free State's Kansas Brewing History web page

... and a good time was had by all

My coworkers bought John and I a one-year membership to a Beer of the Month club and we received our third shipment yesterday. It comes with 3 bottles of 4 different beers. Yesterday's shipment included Lancaster Winter Warmer, Sand Creek English Special Ale, Karlovacko Svjetlo (pilsner from Croatia), and Lomza Mocne (strong lager from Poland). We each had a bottle of the Sand Creek ale, I had the Winter Warmer, and John had the Lomza Mocne. All were pretty good, but the Winter Warmer was my favorite. We stood around in the kitchen & chatted for a while, which seems to be our Friday after-work routine lately. 

We then decided to head out to 75th Street for a couple of beers. I called ahead to find out what they had on tap, since it seems the past 3 times we've been the selection was subpar. Much to my delight, they had an IPA (not Good Hope), the IPA on cask/firkin, and a bourbon barrel brown. We hopped in the car & dashed over (yeah, yeah, we could have walked - but it was 25 degrees outside. I'm a wuss.). 

The place was packed! I don't know that I've ever seen it so crowded. We snagged 2 stools at the bar and ordered up 2 pints of the firkin IPA. Holy cow it was good. Best IPA I've had at 75th Street and highly recommended. Citrusy, grassy, spicy, bitter - very "green" smelling. I watched the bartender pour two bourbon browns and recalled our experience at Free State with Owd Mac. (A couple of weeks ago at Free State, John got a glass of Owd Mac. We loved it so much we ordered another round, but they were out. For good.) So we asked the bartender how much of the brown they had left, and he said they ran out at 5:45 (well after I'd called)! BUT, they did put a whiskey barrel stout on tap. We ordered 2 glasses and it came to us in two small snifters.

We finished our firkin IPAs while chowing down on dinner. I love 75th Street's chicken tender basket with sweet potato fries. I don't get it often because it's such a caloric gut-bomb (though not greasy), but every once in a while I throw caution to the wind and order it anyway. John ordered their Kobe burger, medium rare, which is a reminder of our days spent at Rogue's Distillery & Public House in Portland (Corey we miss you!). Again, it came to order. I can't think of another restaurant in the area that has actually cooked a burger as requested (rare or medium-rare, specifically), including orders for 75th Street's standard burgers.

I should note that when we first walked in to 75th Street, I ran into 2 coworkers - one of whom I found out lives not far from us. As we ate dinner, I saw another coworker at the bar... soon after that, another coworker showed up. They had been to the Boulevard tour earlier in the day and were finishing the day at 75th street. John and I started chatting with them and before I knew it we were actually socializing at our local brewpub. 

One of my coworkers is single and wanted to talk to a woman in the bar who was with a couple of friends. I went over to the women and told one of them that my friend & coworker wanted to talk to her but didn't have the nerve to do it himself... I got to chatting with them and couldn't tear myself away - they were a LOT of fun! John came over after a while and the 5 of us sat there chatting. 

I was getting pretty buzzed so I switched to water. I think I drank about 2 liters of water, I was so thirsty. Beer + dry winter = dehydration nation. Over the rest of the evening, however, I did have 2 more small (10oz) glasses of the firkin IPA. I wanted to drink more before they ran out! As the 5 of us stood around chatting up a storm, my coworkers popped in & out of the conversation. I had the best time and made a few new friends in the process. 

They do Firkin Fridays every other week. Two weeks ago, they put their XXXmas ale in a firkin and the opinion of one apparently frequent 75th Street patron was that it was incredibly good. We'll see what they have next time. My faith in the brewery has been restored. Thank you, 75th Street!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Baking with Beer

Everything always seems to taste better with beer, but I rarely use it in cooking. Seems like such a waste.

This evening, I made Oreo Truffles. Oreo Balls. Whatever you want to call them, they're little round pieces of delicious, and I made them while drinking a Bells Expedition Stout. Yes, everything tastes better with beer. However, these things are pretty damn good all by themselves and I highly recommend making them. A little bit country, a little bit rock n roll, they're 100% delicious.

I snagged the recipe from one website, but there are plenty of variations available. They're all pretty much derived from the same concept:
1 package Oreos (normal 1-pound bag)
1 8oz block cream cheese

Whirr the Oreos in a food processor until they're dust, then add the cream cheese. Mix until it's one gooey glob of goodness. Roll into balls, place on a sheet of parchment/wax paper then chill. Coat in whatever you want - chocolate, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, coconut... I used melted semi-sweet chocolate chips (Hy-Vee brand, nothing but the finest!).

I may have sampled one, though the verdict's still out on that one. All I know is that these babies are addictive. And I don't even like Oreos that much. But I can tell you one thing - they go very well with Expedition Stout.

What doesn't, really?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Joyeux Noël, indeed

Brouwerij Huyghe sure puts out some fantastic beer. Delirium Tremens is one of my all-time favorite beers (top 5 at least) and I picked up a bottle of Delirium No
ël after failing to find Boulevard's BBQ at HyVee liquor. We cracked that baby open tonight; it seems every year I forget what a great beer Noël  is, and remind myself of it again & again. Sort of like Groundhog Day, only better because there's good beer involved (though no Bill Murray - perhaps it's a wash). Sweet, creamy, caramel, spicy... is there anything else one could want in a winter Belgian ale??

Here's to Brouwerij Huyghe. Santé!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Yeah so...

I'm starting over. I deleted my blog in a beer-induced drunken stupor. I wish it had been more like a "recycle bin" type of deletion but OH NO... it was really deleted. Yeah... hm.

So... let's try this again, shall we? Since my old blog was deleted, I've:
  • Tried and thoroughly enjoyed Boulevard's BBQ. De-lish-us.
  • Bottled our chocolate cherry stout and tasted it after a week in bottling. Good - maybe a bit heavy on the chocolate, but good
  • Paid a co-worker for a case of New Glarus beer and a 750 of their Belgian Red
  • Brewed a 5-gal batch of pale ale with Mr. Wort Hog
  • Waited impatiently for the apfelwein to be ready... it's a subtle form of torture to have 10 gallons of it sitting in the basement, taunting us....
  • Tried Coors Original for the first time in my life, after my car broke down in SE Kansas. And it was good.
It's worth noting that Barley's and 75th Street (and perhaps other KC Hopps affiliates) have a Kobe burger that's worth getting. We ordered it medium-rare and it actually came to order - and was delicious. 

I feel like I should include some sort of beer-related link or picture and I still have Boulevard's Single-Wide IPA on my mind, so.. here's the first thing that comes to mind... let's hope it makes its way to Kansas City.