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Archive for the ‘Brew-Haikus’ Category

(no, not the Maroon 5 song)

These were two beers I had on Sunday morning while watching TV and catching up on wedding thank-you notes. Actually, it was Sunday afternoon, but Sunday morning sounds more cozy. And when you get up at 7, but then go back to sleep around 10 and get up again at 11:30, Sunday afternoon still feels kind of like morning to you.

This first one, split with Dan, was Le Merle, a saison from North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, CA.

“Le Merle” translates to “the blackbird,” and Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson; Michael Jackson the famous beer writer) apparently described it as “More than a serious beer – it is outstanding….Dizzying, appetizing, refreshing.” For some reason I think of blackbirds being associated with fall, with picking off the grains and buds of corn from the harvest, with cawing at you from a bare tree branch as you bake a pumpkin pie. So I wasn’t sure what the association with a saison, typically a springtime beer, was. But, blackbirds make me think of farms in general, so maybe the association lies in the rustic, farmhouse-style nature of the beer. Or maybe it’s that “dizzying” quality that Michael Jackson described, the lush flavor unlocked by a rush of carbonation, that reminds us of the dizzying swoop of the blackbird.

And, since I haven’t done a “brew haiku” in awhile, here’s a picture, and a poem:

Blackbird
Swooping, dizzying
the husks, his caws a rush of
lemon, bright in cold.

This was an incredibly citrusy saison! So much bright, acidic lemony-ness cutting through the rustic funk of thick yeast. Definitely felt like the sun shining down on the dry late-fall stalks in the cold, in the clear air.

So that was beer #1. Now let me tell you about beer #2. I’m not going to pretend here that I’m better than everyone else and never end up with a hangover some Sunday mornings. There’s just no need to pretend that, while it’s not a frequent occurrence, it never happens. So when it does, what’s your first instinct when trying to think of a hair-of-the-dog drink that will ease the pain a little bit? Probably a bloody mary. All those good vitamins from the tomato juice, the spice clearing out your head, the vodka numbing it a little until you can hydrate properly. But, if you are like me, you have no ice maker, and have a tiny freezer, so you rarely have ice. And the thought of a bloody mary without ice is disgusting.

So enter: the michelada.

To make a michelada:

1. Pour a lager

2. Drizzle worchestire sauce

3. Drop a few tablespoons of lime juice, or squeeze some fresh lime directly in there

4. Dump in a palm full of salt

5. Add other spices as desired

6. Realize you should’ve salted the rim but decided to turn your lager into a michelada after you poured it

7. Consume. Hydrate. Eat some mac & cheese. Watch some guilty pleasure TV. Write some thank-you notes.

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Apologies in advance to anyone who will not easily be able to try the beer I am about to review. Apparently it is only available in Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Delaware. It’s tragic, but that’s what you get for not living in the Southern/Mid-Atlantic region. Ahem. Now then:

When I was a kid, I loved angler fish.

(source)

They’re the ugliest, scariest, most mysterious, most otherworldly fish in the deep. So of course I loved them. For the same reason I had an unnatural obsession with sharks as a kid (I even had a shark placemat, and memorized all the different species and their Latin names. Nerd alert). They’re fascinating, and horrifying, and though I loved them from afar, I certainly wouldn’t want to come across one in my bathtub. Or my beer.

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Of course, on my beer is just peachy! This guy graces the label of RJ Rockers’ Fish Paralyzer Belgian-Style Pale Ale. We received this bottle in a very generous gift bag of beers and snacks from our neighbors Jason & Laura for watching their delightful dog Nigel for the weekend a couple weeks ago. Thanks, J & L!

We drank the Rogue Mocha Porter first, but I’d had that before, so no formal review of it here, except to say that it’s delectable. Fish Paralyzer was the second one we broke into. I’m fairly certain it was probably included in the collection of gift beers solely for its name, and let’s face it- it’s a pretty goddang awesome name. So points there already, RJ Rockers. But would its taste live up to its awesome label?

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(Spoiler alert: the answer is yes) But since I haven’t done one in awhile, I’ll bring back the brew-haiku and let you know exactly why in 17 syllables.

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Herbal, bitter pines
yield pie run-off: toasted, sweet
butter, thick shortbread

It was a really interesting beer. Normally, I find that if a beer has two contrasting tastes- like hoppy and sweet- one taste will be more dominating, or at least be tasted first, then give way to the other taste second. With this one, I chose the phrase “yield” and not “yield to,” because it really tasted like each taste flowed from (and into) the other naturally and meshed well. Neither was secondary to the other. You could even reverse the haiku (sort of…keeping phrases in tact and disregarding line breaks), and say “Thick shortbread, toasted, sweet butter: pie run-off yields herbal, bitter pines” and it’d still be true.

It was bitter, with a taste really similar to American pale ale hoppiness (Sierra Nevada-y), and at the same very thick and luscious, with a sweetness that reminded me of brown sugar and butter running off from a pie, taking with it the buttery, biscuity viscousness of the crust. A good beer to pair with Thanksgiving dessert, methinks?

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Matching the sweetness and floury thickeness while balancing it with hops, whose bitterness might actually also compliment some pie spices ginger and nutmeg.

Oh, and paralyzing any fish you need paralyzed.

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And both ladies and gentlemen prefer LANCASTER BLONDE ALE!

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(is what I’d say if I were writing copy for them! Ha-ha- studying for my professional slogan-writer certifying exam)

(not really)

First off: my apologies if you have been seeing posts or links to posts twice. I’m still grappling with Ecto, and have found that it occasionally formats it so weirdly that I cannot make it look normal except to just re-do the post in WordPress. I’m not just trying to bombard everyone who subscribes to the RSS in some way with a million “posts” to try to get them to read the blog 🙂

Second: wow, it’s been positively awhile since I’ve done a brew-haiku! Since I intend to keep this blog about the triad of beer, food, and poetry, I think it’s time for another one. So how do you describe the taste of an ale brewed with Lancastrian yeasts that have a 200-year pedigree?

Like thus:

Straw and lemon whiffs.
The green melon of ales: mild,
luscious, hydrating.

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I think I tend to prefer my beers a little stronger tasting than this one. Not that it was bad, or completely without flavor- it’s just very mild, like the haiku says. Sort of like a green melon. And I usually go for cantaloupe or watermelon. It’s not nearly as thick as I feel like some blonde ales I’m used to drinking are (think Leffe, Duvel, Delerium Tremens), though does have a hint of lusciousness in the body (similar again to an understated variety of melon), and an interesting dry, ever-so-slightly bitter finish that, though subtle, stays with you a long time. Its low alcohol (4.1%) makes it a good session beer, and it IS highly refreshing- almost with a hydrating feel! I can definitely see having one after mowing the lawn out under the sun for hours (which is exactly the situation I recommended NOT drinking O’Hara’s Irish Stout in).

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Essentially, I’d buy this again in the warmer months of the year, but I have a feeling the coming months will make me want to hunker down with a thick, spicy, roasty thing.

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Ahhh, yes- fall is upon us!  We have officially paid our September rent, and that’s autumn enough in my mind.  It also means that this puppy (pun intended) is on the shelves again:

Flying Dog’s Dogtoberfest (now you get the pun).  It is a Märzen, the classic beer of Oktoberfest.  And true to historic Märzen brewing tradition, it is brewed with only German ingredients: Vienna, Munich 90, Munich 100, and Light Munich malts; German Perle and Hersbrucker hops.  I can’t attest to the water being imported from Germany, but I suspect that might be the one hidden ingredient native to the brewery’s Frederick, MD home.

Now, in my early craft-beer-loving days, I eschewed lagers.  I was so taken, so swept off my feet by the powerful, flavorful, and drastically varied New World ales that constitute, oh, 90% of American craft brewing, that to me, lagers were flavorless and dull.  I was kind of like a teenager who’s discovered 11-minute jams that feature virtuosic guitar and theremin solos with existential lyrics about the nature of man, the universe, God, and the government: so overwhelmed and impressed that it’s easy to forget the beauty and soul that can hide in a simple love song.

In this way, I equate Märzens to the 32-second track at the end of my box set of recordings from the short, sweet love song master himself, Sam Cooke.  In this track, a radio host says that everyday he tries to describe soul in words, and asks Sam to hum 8 bars of what soul represents.  Sam hums those 8 bars and I tell you, I don’t think soul could be encapsulated any better.

Sam Cooke achieves in 8 bars what some musicians take entire careers to achieve, or sometimes not achieve, and packs behind it lifetimes upon lifetimes of collective experience, history, and- from this, inevitably- soul.  That’s what the European lager-brewing tradition, when done well, with care and craft, achieves as well.  So without further ado, I present to you my brew-haiku:

Caramel, browned butter
on shortbread. Hops like the crunch
of leaves: soft, but crisp.

Look at that lovely scenery in the background

(Just a note: in this haiku, as in the one on Palo Santo, I’m using the two-syllable pronunciation of “caramel”- pronounced like “car-mull”- in order to fit the meter)

Flying Dog recommends that you pair this with dark breads, German sausage, and roasted poultry.  I paired it last night with a bowl of black bean soup and a quesadilla, which I thought was a fine pairing (I didn’t photograph it, unfortunately, because it was 9:45 and I’d just gotten home from class having not eaten dinner, and thus was starving and more interested in eating it than photographing it).  I think the theme here though is to pair it with darker, hearty foods, foods warm and comforting.

As an aside, if you like pairing food with beer and beer with food as I do, here is a good website from Flying Dog: BeerDinners.com.  The site is a little hard to navigate, but there’s some good info in there if you figure out where to find it.  There’s info on upcoming food-and-beer-pairing dinners (featuring Flying Dog as well as other breweries) in a variety of different U.S. locales, as well as entire dinner party menus (featuring food prepared and paired with Flying Dog beers) from chef Scott Clagett of Boulder, CO.  The site also features user-submitted recipes featuring Flying Dog beers, though these can be harder to find- your best bet to locate these is to click on the “Beer Dinner Recipes” category on the right-hand side.

Anyway, happy fall and happy sipping/cooking!

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Caramel swamp, smokey
sapwoods. Molasses bittered
by the roast of age.

This is Dan’s favorite brew from Dogfish Head.  And of course, it was included in each of our birthday presents from his parents: the same gift, a variety case of Dogfish Head beers.  Our birthdays are 3 weeks + 2 days apart, and it was just enough time for us to finish one case in time for the second.  But um, to our credit, we had several parties and special events (such as friends in town, etc), birthday-related and non, at which we shared our bounty.

Palo Santo is a brown ale, and a pretty high gravity one, at 12% ABV.  And it squeezes flavor out of every single one of those percents.  It is aged in barrels made of Paraguayan Palo Santo wood, which gives it that almost oaky vanilla taste of a Chardonnay, but with that nutty, smokey caramel taste of a brown ale kicked up to 11 with extreme roasty and malty flavors.  And it’s got the mouthfeel of a thick, bubbling bog.

Highly recommended.  And highly recommended to be sipped and savored over a long period of time- not only because this will prevent you from being knocked on your ass by it’s high alcohol content, but because each tiny little sip literally packs the punch and complexity of a long, deep swig.

Happy sipping!

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Charred maple bark, singed
brown sugar on creme brulee.
Thick warmth at cool dawn.

It’s at once earthy and bitter (thus the charred bark, the singe) and sweet (the maple, the sugar); smokey, roasted, and full, yet brisk. I was a big fan, though Dan was not, interestingly- I thought it was intensely full-flavored, and Dan thought it tasted generic. Goes to show you how much individual tastes can vary.

If it weren’t for the fact that I think the only beer tolerable at breakfast would be a really thick, lactic-sugar-sweet brew like a milk stout or a really intense dubbel, I’d say it’d go great with breakfast sausage (slightly sweet, slightly spicy, good with the sweet/bitter/smokey/earthy combo of the beer), maybe with a side of pancakes.  Not that I actually drink beer at breakfast…but maybe with a late weekend brunch, though.  Anyway, instead, I’ll just say I think this would go great with a piece of maple sugar candy, eaten upon entering the warm indoors again on a cool fall day.

Perfect for yesterday, Virginia’s first little glimpse of fall weather after an intense summer.

PS: like the links to wiki?  I’m trying this because it saves space in the middle of the sentence used up by technical definitions when informing the reader of those particular definitions isn’t the focus of the post.

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The day I stop thinking up punny titles is the day I’ll retire from blogging.

This meal started last weekend, when Dan spoke up out of the blue and said, “OK, now hear me out on this one- and this might sound crazy but: Asian tacos.  Is there a way to do that?”

And thus, Asian deer tacos were born.  It so happens that Dan’s dad likes to hunt, and got two deer this season, so we had a few deer steaks in our freezer waiting to be eaten.  And since I’ve become quite adept as cooking with venison (some past favorites have been deer shepherd’s pie, deer chili, deer burgers, deer spaghetti, and of course, the venerable “Sloppy Does”- i.e., deer sloppy joes), I had a fantastic Asian venison stir-fry recipe that had been a smashing success before.  All I needed to do was transform the base meat into a taco recipe.

And that above is the base meat (double-bagged for spillage prevention).  It was about a pound and a half (with a small bone in) of venison, marinated in 1/2 cup soy sauce (well, I only had 1/4 cup of soy sauce left in the bottle, so it was half soy and half teriyaki sauce), a tablespoon brown sugar (well, more like a hunk of indeterminate size, because our brown sugar is one massive hard rock, but I refuse to throw it out and waste it, so I sawed off a chunk, ran it under water, mixed it in, and called it a day), a goodly grating of fresh ginger root (since I was out of powdered), a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, a heaping spoonful of minced garlic, and 1/4 cup beer (Miller High Life, to be exact…save me your high-brow scoffs; Dan already had one open and I only needed 1/4 cup.  That’s TWO OUNCES.  Not worth opening another beer over).  Now that’s some Blind Faith cooking right there.  Especially since I began the marinating when the meat was still frozen, so I wasn’t sure how it would marinate or if there was enough surface area for the juices to work their way in being a huge hunk of meat, instead of sliced up little bits.

So, that marinated overnight.  When I came home from work the day of the dinner, I decided that the refried beans I’d planned would not at all go with Asian deer tacos, and that I needed more Mexican-Asian-fusion-like sides.  Thus, the off-the-cuff recipe for this corn salad was born.

Two ears of corn (I used the super sweet kind from Harris Teeter that doesn’t even need to be cooked), one container diced tomatoes, and three green onions, chopped and mixed together.  Then to this I added a few drizzles of peanut oil, some splashes of rice wine vinegar, some powdered ginger (I’d bought more at this point), and the juice of three key limes.

Yes, those two little things on the right side are cat paws. Tango decided to jump up on the windowsill right as I was taking this picture.

My dad had given us this bag of key limes some time ago, and since I hadn’t gotten around to making pie yet, I wanted to use some of them in something.  So you stir, stir, stir, then let it sit for a few hours to let the flavors blend.

This bowl was one we stole from Dan's parents some time ago, and it matches our curtains for food-photo taking oh so well!

Next up came the question of what to top the deer tacos with.  Salsa, cheese, and guacamole just wouldn’t cut it for Asian tacos.  So I decided to combine the styles of Asian cuisine and baja fish tacos, which are topped with coleslaw, into a sort of Asian slaw topping.  This was ridiculously easy.

All I did was combine some pre-cut cabbage slaw mix with maybe half a bottle of Iron Chef (no relation to the TV show) Thai sweet pepper & garlic sauce, and let it marinate.  Though it’s called “sweet pepper & garlic” sauce, be warned: it actually packs a spicy punch.

I will put it out there and say I added too much sauce.  I forgot how much cabbage absorbs whatever you put on it, and I probably could have used maybe 1/3 of a bottle instead of half.  Dan, however, said it was perfect, and he liked the amount of sauce.  Either way, it was fine, and I just used it a little more sparingly to avoid overwhelming the deer meat in my taco.

Now then, once it was time to get cookin’, I took the deer out of the fridge, and it was time to get slicing.

Look at that juicy meat.

Super-knife not only chops vegetables (and fingers) with incredible ease, but it slices through meat like BUTTER.

It was really an incredible slicing experience.

Now, the rest is really easy.  All your sides and condiments are ready; all you have to do is stir-fry them meat (with a little of the marinade poured into the pan), and end up with taco filling like this:

Turns out the marinating worked just fine- the deer meat was probably the most delicious part of the meal.

You then serve it all up (along with some frozen crab shumai for good measure, to give you a second side dish, that you nuked for 4 minutes).

Le plate:

Yick, the natural lighting had mostly gone away at this point (we tend to eat late) and the 400 ISO made this look awful.  Oh well.  Also, it should be noted that I normally do not only eat one taco, but I had a large and late lunch.  Lest you think I am a food wimp.

Now then, this wouldn’t be a beer-blog post if the only beer involved in this was the two measly ounces of Miller High Life that went into the marinade.  No, there was also a pairing!

This would be Lagunitas Lucky 13 Mondo Large Red Ale.  This is a strong red ale (at 8.5% ABV) that honestly, was chosen because I walked up to the little European cafe/mart 15-20 minutes up the street from us and didn’t want to carry a six-pack home, so I limited my selection to the six or so 750 ml. bottles they had, and this seemed like the best pairing of those there (also one I’d never had).

Overall, it was quite good, and like I’ve said before, if you like a beer and you like a food, chances are you’ll enjoy consuming them together.  But it didn’t strike any particular or notable chords with the food in terms of taste-enhancement or compliment, except for one: it was an unusually hoppy (read: bitter) beer for a red ale, and it helped balance the kick of the spicy slaw, refreshing my palate in a rhythm that went something like bite, chew, spice!, sip, refresh!, repeat.

And I’ll be honest…I really liked this beer, but for some odd reason it was really hard for me to pinpoint the tastes in this one.  It had a medium-to-thickish mouth-feel, and it was bitter, and it tasted…well, very red-ale-like, but for some reason it look me nearly my whole glass to come up with some specific notes and tastes to make into a brew-haiku.  But I eventually did, and here’s what I came up with:

Hoppy. Resin of
bitter cherry bark. Dried fruit
under toasted foam.

Cheers!

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