Beer: The Summer of Beer
I enjoy good beer, the only thing left for me to do is to make it myself (something I’m in serious discussion/thought about doing). By beer I don’t mean the absolute crap, that the politicians in D.C. suck down in the name of votes, I’m referring to beer that has complex flavor, that says life is good, that is usually not mass produced, that can give you a headache after one glass, and that uses a careful selection of ingredients. This summer is no different because I’ve been tasting some outstanding beer. I thought it was only appropriate to do a gigante post on some adventures around beer that I’ve enjoyed this summer. This includes travels that had a beer adventure, a great book on beer I read, a festival I attended, and a recipe we made involving brew.
I’d like to start with a book I read after a recommendation by Seed Magazine called Froth: The Science of Beer. I actually picked up a copy on our recent “food rampage” trip to Portland (link via Dawn and Eric, Wright Eats) which of course always includes an hour or more in Powell’s City of Books. Mark Denny writes for all types of readers because he puts the more difficult math and science it at the end of the chapter so people can skim or skip it if they aren’t into math. He talks about where the bubbles in beer come from, how they move about the glass, and why different types of beer have their various characteristics. He dives into the history and advances in beer making, not forgetting to describe in depth how and why America has 3-4 major “macro-breweries” that manufacture what he basically calls excrement. Upon reading this book, I learned quite a bit about the whole process for the microbrew and the homebrewer. I have a totally new appreciation for how vital the strain of yeast is in making a quality beer. By weaving in the science I now feel like I really understand how beer is constructed like through a trial an error process, how it gets its amazingly divergent flavor profile, and the beauty of the variety in hops and malt selection.
Here are a few of the beers that I’ve recently tasted and enjoyed:
Dog Fish Head Palo Santo Marron: ABV 12% | Dog Fish
This is beer is a very serious brown ale aged in handmade wooden brewing barrels. The casks are made from Paraguayan Palo Santo wood. Palo Santo means “holy tree” and this wood has been used in many South American wine-making communities. The pour was all coffee and caramel-like in the glass. The head doesn’t stay around very long, but there is a bit of it left around the edge of the glass after it falls. This beer was very smokey on the initial smell, with a rum like quality that made me think of a Captain Morgan being poured. The taste profile was quite different from a standard brown ale…it was much more complex with dark fruit (maybe even a little fig), coco, and some definite smoked wood flavor. The mouthfeel wasn’t its strongest suit because it seemed a bit more watery than one would expect for all the complexity of the taste. The mouthfeel would not deter me from absolutely recommending it however. You will notice that it has very high alcohol content (12% ABV) so it is a sipping beer for sure. I’d like to try another one on a rainy day in fall when this darker stuff is more typical of what I drink during that season.
Double Wide India Pale Ale: ABV 8.5% | Boulevard Brewing Co.
I used to drink Boulevard beers (Kansas City, MO) back when I lived in Nebraska. It was one of the few decent local micros on tap in many of dingy bars I hung out in as a poor Ph.D student. However, back then Boulevard was mostly known for their Boulevard Wheat beer, which is very popular in that area and served with lemon. So when I noticed the Double Wide IPA on the shelf I was nearly in shock that they made such a potent brew. To be frank, I wasn’t expecting the pungent-like qualities of the Northwest IPA I enjoy regularly out here in Seattle. This beer poured like a champagne. It has a monster head with larger bubbles and even by pouring slowly it didn’t stop it from showing itself (see pic). This IPA is pretty hoppy and zingy with more lemon citrus than orange or lime flavors and it is also fuller texture than some NW IPAs. They also have a Single Wide IPA which I just picked up today and will be curious to see how Boulevard’s standard IPA tastes.
Portland Beer Festival: Portland, OR
While down in Portland four of us stopped by the Beer Festival (July 17-19) in the Pearl district in downtown PDX. It was 20 bucks a head including a 4oz free taster glass and 20 beer tickets which typically average about 1 dollar each. Some beer tastings are 1 ticket, others can be up to 8. The festival was very well organized and had one side dedicated to draft choices, the other for beers out of the bottle (including aged Belgian Ales, etc). The highlight at the festival was the beer that we all pooled our tickets together to taste called the DeuS (Brut Methode Champagnoise). This beer was being called “epic” by the festival organizers so we had to wait in the long line to taste it but it did not disappoint. It is one of the more fascinatingly complex beers I’ve ever tasted. The Deus is brewed by Bosteels Brewery, it is then shipped to the Champagne region of France to undergo the full Methode Champenoise (one of two in the world that does so) which really makes this brew special. The taste was uncharacteristic of many belgian brews. We all agreed that it had some major flavor components that stood out (and this is a simplification to be fair): Mr Clean pine cleaner, JagerMeister, Sprite, syrup. So this isn’t really a beer you drink with a brat or slab of ribs. This is for sippin’. I’ve never seen it in any of the beer shops, but it allegedly sells for between 40-60 a bottle.
Powerhouse Brewery | Puyallup Washington.
We stopped in recently for a bite to eat and to taste few of their beers. I was quite impressed on a number of counts. First of all the building was refinished from an old railroad powerhouse right smack in the middle of Puyallup’s downtown. It is a tiny place inside and doesn’t appear to seat that many people, but it has a unique “power” theme throughout. The beers I tried were all above average. The Summer Seasonal ale was a little hopped and had a nice bitterness that many summer ales lack in my opinion. Robin had a nice Belgian White, that wasn’t as sweet as they usually are, but still had a nice balance of malt and hops. The 4 Alarm Nitro Stout was outstanding with a rich texture as typical from a nitro but it carried nice coffee flavors, tobacco, and dark chocolate. The IPA was traditional for the northwest, but well crafted with quite of bit of citrus zing and yet not overloaded bitter hop taste. The food is as typical for a brewpub, well below our standards.
Finally, a beer themed dessert recipe that we recently enjoyed. It started with a bottle of SteelHead Scotch Porter (ABV 6%, Mad River Brewing). This beer has a dark and roasted malt flavor. It also has a wonderful nuttiness and a hint of chocolate. We imagined it would go perfectly with cherries in a cherry porter ice cream after being inspired by some food blogs and Boundry Bay Brewery in Bellingham Washington who serves Cherry-porter ice cream from time-to-time. The recipe was adapted from David Lebovitz’s vanilla version. We also accompanied the ice cream with a Cherry Frangipane Galette (via Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)
Cherry Porter Ice Cream
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (if you want)
1 cup pitted, halved Bing cherries
1/2 cup of nice rich Porter
1/4 cup corn syrup
1. Heat cherries, Porter and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed sauce pan until reduced by about a quarter. Set aside to cool.
2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.
3. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan until sugar is dissolves, then set aside.
4. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.
6. Freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then fold-in the Cherry Porter mixture carefully with a spatula by hand.
The ice cream tastes roasted and nutty with a hint of tartness from the cherries, and a rounded cream texture.