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Posts Tagged ‘Dogfish Head’

That title is meant to signify both that a) I am still alive! Despite the fact that I never update this blog anymore because of the trillion side-projects I already have going on with my poetry and with the poetry/film journal and b) that I know how to reference Pearl Jam. Which will explain its relevance soon.

You see, waaaaay back in November, I drank this beer.

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This would be Dogfish Head’s tribute to the 20th anniversary of the classic Pearl Jam album Ten– aptly called Twenty. Now, obviously my love of Dogfish Head has been well-documented on this blog. But I bet you didn’t know that I’m also a Pearl Jam fan (…well, actually, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably either Dan or my mom, so yeah, OK, you probably did know that I was a Pearl Jam fan). After that Trampled by Turtles post, and now posting this, I should really turn this into a beer-and-music blog instead of a beer-and-cooking-and-poetry blog, but be that as it may, let me tell you: I love Pearl Jam. This is a point of deviation for my husband and I, and after much discussion, we decided the matter boiled down to Eddie Vedder’s voice: you either love it, or you hate it. I love it. I think his voice is among my top favorite voices, musically, of all time (up there with Roy Orbison, Cee-Lo, and Sam Cooke). Dan can’t stand the sound of it. And therefore, will sing along to classic Pearl Jams (see what I did there?) on the radio, because everyone knows them, but wouldn’t listen to them on his own time. However, this isn’t a post about Dan’s ambivalence toward Pearl Jam, this is a post about my love of them. And about beer. But first Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam is like Ensure for the soul. I know that doesn’t sound cool and badass enough to be an metaphor for the band, but hear me out: Ensure is a drink power-packed full of nutrients and calories, in one can, for those unable to come by them through a myriad of different foods in their regular diets (read: the elderly, hospital-bound, and homeless populations, mostly). Likewise, whatever thoughts, feelings, questions, doubts, anger, contemplation, or pure lack of understanding you have about the experience of living that you can’t express or articulate in the circumstances of day-to-day living, you can sing them all out with Eddie Vedder, and he’ll present them to you in his jagged, honest way that lets you know you’re not alone in them. And it nourishes your soul. All in the small, easy-to-consume size of a little album case. Eddie Vedder got me through a lot in my high school and college years, and frankly, my adult years too. Not only in Pearl Jam, but in his solo work too.

Take, for instance, “Alive.”

Is there something wrong? she said/Of course there is/You’re still alive, she said/Oh, and do I deserve to be?/Is that the question,/And if so, if so, who answers? Who answers? Who hasn’t been struck a blow right to the heart by those questions before?

“No Ceiling”? I’m pretty sure that can basically sum up everything I feel about everything I’ve lived so far.

And I’m still convinced that “Thumbing My Way” is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

So, now that you fully understand how parts of me are what they are today because of Pearl Jam, how does their beer stack up?

Pretty tastily. Ha, I actually don’t have anything deep to say about the beer, or about how its flavors are a metaphor for the music. It pays tribute to Ten with 10 incremental additions of black currants to the beer during the brewing process and pays tribute to its 20th anniversary by being hopped to 20 IBUs. It’s a Belgian Golden Ale, if we’re getting technical and drawing style-lines, at 7.0% ABV. I have written in my notes about it from two or three months ago, “Medium-bodied, flavorful, fruit-forward, almost champagne-y. Where da currants at?” So there you go. I couldn’t really make out the currants, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten a currant either. Aren’t they kind of like raisins? I didn’t taste any raisins. But I did taste deliciousness. And nourishingness. And I may have pulled out my copy of Ten because of it.

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Sounds like a pretty awesome joke, right?

Wrong!

Well, that’s not true. It probably would be an awesome joke. But here, it’s just referring to three beers I recently drank (though not in a bar, in the comfort of my own living room).

First of all, I have to give a shout out to Red, White, and Bleu in Falls Church for not only having these awesome beers on their shelves, but a plethora of hard-to-find beers (as in, hard to find even at Total Wine! Shocking, I know!), tons of quality wines (at value prices!), wheels of cheese bigger than my head, all the charcuterie you could want, yummy spreads and crackers, and even jelly beans packaged in little bags labeled “Chardonnay,” “Malbec,” “Viognier,” and the like, that when eaten in tandem with the other beans in the bag, will recreate the taste sensation of that particular wine style. I’m serious–Temperanillo, for instance, had black pepper (for spiciness), bacon (for woody/smokey taste), cappuccino (for caramel/coffee/mocha taste), cherry (for fruity/berry taste), dirt (for earthy taste), pencil shaving (for minerality), plum (for tree-fruit taste), raspberry (for berry), strawberry (for berry again) flavors. I’m not kidding you. Bacon jelly beans.

Yes. Please.

Unfortunately, all I have to offer of that bunch is a picture of an empty bag. I ate them in the car ride home.

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Now then, who was the first to walk into the bar? Oh yes, the cider…

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This would be the Wanderlust variety from Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Salem, OR. This cider was perfect for when I cracked it open, after a long, hot walk outside in the summertime.

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Perfectly refreshing, effervescent, and light. I specifically chose this because it was characterized as dry, and modeled after English ciders. The bottle did not lie on that fact, it had just the perfect amount sweet undertones and apple character, without being sweet itself. It’s got a slight spicy finish as well. The only thing I didn’t get was why it was characterized as “full-bodied” by the label. This was anything but full-bodied to me! It seemed extremely light for a cider. That’s not a point against it, by any means. It seemed to me like the artfully-brewed and delicious Kolsch of ciders. And I can’t imagine why the bottle thought otherwise?

Yes, I’m aware that the bottle didn’t actually “think” anything. It’s an easy target though.

Moving on…

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Mole, ole! Oh yes, I bet you thought that mole was an animal! But no. I just don’t know how to put an accent over the “e” in Ecto.

Isn’t it cool that this selection from the New Holland High Gravity Series, Mole Ocho, looks like it’s defying gravity in this picture? That’s the blurry edges of a photo taken with a fish-eye lens of a bottle propped at an angle against the window and atop a candle!

Though I was up to some optical illusions in that picture, this beer is no….optical illusion…..of taste.

(Yeah, OK, that attempt at “clever wording” went nowhere).

This was seriously delicious. Or at least, I thought so. Dan wasn’t so keen on it for some reason! I was taken, though.

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This looks like it should be drank in some dimly lit library full of dusty, hand-bound books on shelves of deep, rich mahogany. Perhaps the beer is resting on a side table while you sit in a high-backed leather chair, afghan over your lap. An original handwritten journal of Hemmingway or maybe Kipling is balanced in one hand, sucking you into vivid, obscure locales in India, Africa, Cuba. Your other hand remains stationed outstretched to grab this beer–the only beer rich and deep, spicy and earthy, mysterious and commanding enough to match the tales you’re absorbed in.

Ideally. Or you could just drink it in your living room by lamplight while you watch the mediocre slasher take on the classic Brothers Grimm story, “Snow White: A Tale of Terror.”

Either way it will taste wonderful. It’s chocolatey (as one would expect from the beer version of the classic Mexican spicy, chocolate-based savory sauce), but without being sweet or overly-thick like a chocolate stout, and without being bitter like unsweetened chocolate. It tastes like someone took some cocoa beans and smoked them, then coated them in cayenne. It’s a smokey, spicey, earthy–almost mineral–chocolate taste. I have written in my beer tasting notebook “Very good with strawberries.” Then another note appears, in Dan’s handwriting. “Not as sexy as Dan.” Ha-ha. Bet you thought I’d write that on here unthinkingly, blindly trusting my notes!

Well, I guess I sort of did write on here.

Oh man. I’ve been bested. I’ve been dogged. I’ve been beaten down and beaten down again. Makes me feel like I got the blues. Makes me feel like I’ve got a hellhound on my trail. Or perhaps…..on my……ale?

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That’s right, the final beer that walked into that bar is a tribute by Dogfish Head to the inimitable Robert Johnson, whose song “Hellhound On My Trail” is the namesake of the beer “Hellhound On My Ale” and whose 100th birthday would have been this year, if he hadn’t stolen that guy’s woman, gotten poisoned with arsenic, survived, caught pneumonia, survived, then gotten poisoned with arsenic by that guy again.

The beer is hopped by centennial hops, a nod to RJ’s centennial birthday, and just like Robert Johnson, who did nothing if not to the extreme (be it playing the blues, drinking, running around with other men’s women, or selling his soul to the devil for guitar lessons), this ale clocks in at 100 IBUs (that’s international bitterness units). 100 IBUs is where the scale stops, because it is literally the threshold of human taste for bitterness. This beer could be even more bitter than we even realize, but we have no clue, because we can only physically register 100 IBUs.

So just from that, you’d think this beer would be all but unpalatable. But let me tell you, just like the blues, which howls of heartache, oppression, depression, and dark dark mojo, this beer–also just like blues–goes down so smooth and fine. It goes down in that way that makes you want to shake your head, smile out the corner of your mouth, and mutter “Mmmhmm! Thass right!” (<– and “thass” my country accent coming out).

And after all that, you’d think a 100-IBUs-bitter beer wouldn’t need the pucker of a lemon in it, but in a nod to Johnson’s mentor, Blind Lemon Jefferson, the folks at Dogfish Head added dried lemon peel and flesh to the mash. And let me tell you again, ain’t no pucker involved. It’s bitter, and it’s lemony, but somehow it just heightens that fine twang of the brew. It’s thick and good and it’ll put a slow, sweet smile on your face. Might even make you go “Mmmhmm! Thass right!”

Thass right folks. And thass all for now. Cheers!

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Fiiiinally getting around to blogging again! Sorry guys, but life is hectic, and there hasn’t been as much time or willpower for sampling and photographing, especially with the short days meaning horrible lighting conditions for any time I may want to drink a beer except for maybe once or two times during the weekend, if I happen to want a beer in the early afternoon.

But this one will be a good one, I promise! I finally got to sample Dogfish Head’s My Antonia, the much-raved-about new release from DFH this past year. And armed with my newfound appreciation (well, OK, I guess not that new) of that bottom-fermented classic, the lager, I was excited to try a lager offering from Dogfish Head, who not only has a track record of producing delicious beers, but also a track record of mostly producing delicious ales. I wanted to see what they’d do with the oft misunderstood, and missed-opportunitied, lager style.

Yes, I just made up the word “missed-opportunitied.” It means two things: one, that craft brewers often favor ales over lagers and miss the opportunity to produce a really great lager, and two, that mass macro-brews who mostly produce lagers often, sadly, miss the opportunity to produce a great, complex lager. Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say that lots of people miss the opportunity to drink a quality lager, instead opting for a cheap, easily available, and familiar name to drink can after can in session. And thus the demand is created. Sigh. They do have their place.

Anyhow! On to My Antonia!

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My Antonia, named after the Willa Cather novel, is a “continually-hopped imperial Pils,” according to DFH. It started out as a collaboration beer with Birra del Borgo in Italy, where it was first brewed by both Sam Calagione and Leonardo DiVincenzo of Birra del Borgo in 2008. A small amount was shipped to the US in 2008, and then the 2010 release was distributed to very limited markets in the US. It has been a bitch to find. But it turned out to be a bitchin’ great brew!

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At 7.5% alcohol, it’s got a lot more gravity than your typical Pilsner, and it’s got a weightiness accordingly. The mouthfeel was still crisp like a Pilsner should be, but almost had a creaminess to it too. The overwhelming tastes and aromas were citrus and grains, with a touch of that herbal, foresty taste of west coast hops intensifying the crispness of the Pilsner style. It’s tempered, though, by a sweetness in the citrus…like an very ripe orange, maybe, as well as by some breadiness from the Pilsner grains.

Overall, definitely a beer worth hunting down!

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From a distant corner of Northern China, in the time-worn village of Jiahu, comes- that’s right folks- THE OLDEST FERMENTED BEVERAGE KNOWN TO MAN!

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Wait…let’s move in closer to try and get a better look…

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Aha! A relic of the famed craft brewing emperor, Dogfish Head Brewery! But let’s see if we can’t get an even better view now…just a little deeper, down through the strata, keep digging…dust off that final layer now…

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Just what we suspected was there- Chateau Jiahu 🙂

And now, without further ado, I present to you the long-awaited post I’ve been promising for a week now on Chateau Jiahu. As you’ll recall, we tasted it last week at the Dogfish Head Alehouse but were also gifted a bottle by Dan’s dad, and I wanted to wait until I’d had more than just a few sips (and I was able to photograph it) to give my official thoughts on it. You may also recall from last week’s post that, unlike with the legend of Midas Touch, I had a bit more faith in the validity of this beer’s archaeological claims of origin. Meaning I remembered hearing from some of the archaeological staff at Montpelier, where I was doing my field school in 2007, about the discovery in China of the world’s oldest known fermented beverage.

The beverage that was then recreated (or perhaps reinterpreted, with the characteristic high gravity of a DFH brew- I don’t know) by the folks at Dogfish Head, working with Dr. Patrick McGovern, an archaeologist at University of Pennsylvania and the U. Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (which Dan & I tried to visit when we were in Philly a couple years ago, but was closed the day we wandered over there). McGovern studies the fermented beverages of such cultures as the Neolithic bunch that once resided in Jiahu by analyzing the vessels that once contained them. I wish the article I’d read that interviewed him had gone into more detail on his methods, because there are nerds like me out there who get legitimately excited by the words infrared spectrometry and gas chromatography. But alas, this was not an article out of Archaeology magazine, and it did not.

Anyhow, entirely accurate, partially accurate, or wherever the fidelity of this beer falls, the facts are these: it’s delicious. It’s exotic. It’s captivating. And the legend of its provenance, above all, serves to transport us to a far off time and place while drinking it.

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Chateau Jiahu is an ale brewed with honey and hawthorn fruit, and fermented with grape concentrate (according to the bottle). But further investigation (on the DFH website) reveals a much more detailed process: the brewers mix pre-gelatinized rice flakes with the barley malt to make an initial wort, to which the Wildflower honey, Muscat grapes, and hawthorn fruit- along with Chrysanthemum flowers- are then added. After boiling and cooling, it then gets a hit of sake yeast, and ferments and ages away for a month.

The result is a beer light-amber in color and incredibly thick in taste and body. It’s very honey-forward, with a taste of white grape juice right behind it. It’s also got strong herbal overtones, which I assume come from the Chrysanthemum flowers. It almost tastes like a bubbly, yeasty tea-juice. I was not surprised at all to learn, about 3/4 of the way through my tasting, of the rice flakes and sake yeast used in the brewing. It’s definitely got those winey, vinous stings that are characteristic of sake, or even soju.

Unearthed and resurrected, the past truly comes alive with this beer. Sorry, I couldn’t refuse the cheesy marketing line. But what truly captivates me about this beer, and what has always captivated me about the practice of archaeology, is the way that so much can be derived from what seems like so little to the undisciplined eye- the angle of a clay shard in relation to the glass in the midden a foot away from it; the subtle changes in the color of the soil as you move downwards through the earth and through each bygone year, accordingly; the presence or absence of certain compounds, the ways in which time has changed, or not changed, their existence. From this we unravel not just facts about what once transpired, but stories of lives, of the way people lived and breathed and interacted with each other and with the world. The words of these tales appear as if written in invisible ink, there for us to read all along, needing only a washing with the right substance to become visible.

And what’s most incredible is that we can construct and recreate these histories, turn them into living histories. We can hold a nail or a knife that someone in the past once held, used to construct those lifeways that kept them alive. We can drink the beer that they drank. We can marvel in the brief glimpse of consciousnesses not our own, like young children beginning to grasp for the first time in their psychological development that other people have feelings and motives and perspectives as well, and are not just objects and additions to their own world.

Sorry, I know it’s a lot for a brew to pull off. But this is the kind of sentimental thing beer and archaeology stir in me.

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First things first, you may recall awhile back I announced my first success in the world of legit poetry: the literary journal Slow Trains was going to publish two of my poems in their fall issue. Well, the fall issue finally came out, and you can see my poems (and the fine work of other talented writers) here! My poems are “Spoonful” and “Midnight Movie” (look to the right).

Anyhow, in celebration of the fact that I am now, officially, a poet, Dan’s parents took us out to the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Falls Church for dinner (and beers, obviously). It’s the one of four locations closest to us, and let me tell you, we love it, but it is HOPPIN’ even on a random Tuesday night. Completely worth the wait though.

Here is a picture of Dan and I:

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OK, if you think the picture is poor quality, I apologize, but here’s where it was before that:

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And before that, the original picture:

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So I think I did a pretty OK job. Actually, seeing them together like that, I can’t decide if I like the first or second revision better.

Anyway, as usual, the food was fabulous. I have now had the ahi tuna, grilled salmon, shrimp tacos, chicken taquitos, buffalo chicken dip, crab dip, beef stew, and that night’s entree, the crab cakes, and all have been terrific. Also, I’ve discovered that leftover crab cake + English muffin + cream cheese = delicious breakfast. Why don’t I think to eat crab for breakfast more often??

Now, on the beer-front, I started out with the Punkin Ale, since it’s fall and I hadn’t had one yet this season! I’m finding that after awhile, it’s hard to describe what distinguishes one pumpkin ale from another. They all taste like pumpkin and fall spices, and while there are significant differences, it’s becoming a bit of a chore for me to try to pick out their individual qualities when I’m not tasting them side-by-side. I will just say that Dogfish Head’s take on the style is one of my favorites, and it’s a got a little more oomph at 7% ABV than most pumpkin ales, without being an imperial pumpkin ale.

I also tried some sips of Dan’s Chateau Jiahu, which claims to be reconstructed from the residue of what is so far the oldest fermented beverage known to man, discovered in an excavation in the village of Jiahu in northern China, and dating to 9,000 years ago. Unlike the doubts I had about the claims of Midas Touch’s origins, I actually remember hearing about this discovery when I was doing my archaeology field school in college, so I’m a little more apt to accept Chateau Jiahu’s hype. Now, Dan’s dad bought me a bottle of this as a congratulations present, so I want to save my thoughts on it for an official review, when we break out the bottle and I have an actual pour of it. But I will say this for now: it was very good. So good, in fact, that it prompted Dan’s mom, who normally doesn’t drink beer, to order one.

Now then, once we’d all finished our first round, we decided to splurge on the second (or, Dan’s dad insisted that we splurge on the second, because it was a celebration!), and bought a 750 ml bottle of one of Dogfish Head’s newest creations, Bitches Brew, to share. This is the bottle pictured in the photos above- and below.

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If Bitches Brew sounds like a Miles Davis album to you, you’re not crazy! In honor of the 40th anniversary of the release of Bitches Brew (the album), Dogfish Head released Bitches Brew (the beer). According to Dogfish Head’s website, Sam Calagione, founder of the brewery, was quite a fan of the album, “drawn to the alchemical spirits in Bitches Brew.” In Calagione’s words, “I listened to it when I was writing my Dogfish business plan. I wanted Dogfish Head to be a maniacally inventive and creative brewery, analog beer for the digital age. You could say that my dream was to have Dogfish Head, in some small way, stand for the same thing in the beer world that Bitches Brew stands for the jazz world.”

Bitches Brew the beer is 3/4 imperial stout, 1/4 honey beer, with some gesho root thrown in. I had to look up what gesho was, but when I did, I realized it’s what they mix with honey and ferment to make tej in Ethiopia. It’s similar to a hop, apparently. We were all pretty impressed with Bitches Brew. It’s rich and thick, and extremely roasty, almost to the point of being bitter (think like a roasted espresso bean- a toasted bitterness instead of a hop bitterness; after all, it’s only got an IBU of 34). Yet it’s still extremely smooth, and softened by that honey just enough so that everything works together and goes down easily. It’s intense, but not jarring; its loud roasts are tempered by just enough sweetness to hold it together and get it where it’s going. Much like Miles’ music:

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Shenan out!

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As you may or may not know, I am a big frequenter of food and cooking blogs along with beer blogs, and when I saw this recipe for garlic + herb beer bread on one my favorite food blogs some time ago, I knew I wanted to make it. I just never got around to it for some reason. But when I tried Dogfish Head’s new Saison du Buff, I knew I had the perfect beer for it.

Saison du Buff is, clearly, a saison (link for those who need a reference), with a very Simon-and-Garfunkle-ish twist: it’s brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

I have always been a fan of beers with ingredients or tastes that you wouldn’t normally think to put in your beer: I love smoked ales and lagers, am always eager to try beers brewed with cocoa or maple syrup or chai tea, love sour ales, would drink a bacon beer if there is one. I love palate-mash-ups of savory and sweet, sweet and smokey, sour and sweet, what have you. So this unusual beer was right up my alley- you don’t normally think to drink such savory herbs; they are reserved for turkey stuffing or…well, beer bread. Since I was a fan of the beer, and it shared many of the same ingredients the recipe called for, I knew it was the perfect beer with which to make this bread.

And the recipe is just about the easiest thing I’ve ever made. You first mix 3 cups flour and all the herbs and spices it calls for in a bowl.

I had to make some substitutions, but that’s part of the adventure of cooking: we only had 1 cup of all-purpose flour left, so I used 1 cup all-purpose and 2 cups bread flour. We didn’t have dill, so I used chives. And we didn’t have any fresh herbs (and I wasn’t going to go out and buy expensive packets of fresh herbs just for this recipe), so the ones that were supposed to be fresh were actually dried (and I didn’t bother to adjust the measurements- it was just really herby!). I also just heaped in some forkfulls of garlic, because in my experience, you don’t have to measure garlic: there can never be too much. And none of any of the ingredients were local, that I know of (it was the concept of the original recipe, but I didn’t worry too much about it here).

Anyhow, then you pour the bottle of beer in:

And you get this:

Then you swirl it all around, until you end up with a very thick batter like this:

Then you bake it in the oven at 375* for 45 minutes. And you get this:

Which you then cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then on it’s own for another 10 minutes (minimum…can be served at room temperature so it doesn’t really matter). Then you slice…and take lots of luscious bread pictures:

Then you serve it with something delicious. We went with giant meatballs:

And collards:

Yum.

Overall, I think it was a success. I’m not sure if my bread flour substitution had anything to do with it, but I would’ve liked it to be just a tad moister…maybe I’ll throw a little butter in next time. Overall, though, it was fluffy and delicious, and fantastic covered in a little of the tomato sauce from the meatballs. And will be eaten again for lunch tomorrow (or actually today, by the time I post this…I sometimes like to save posts to put up during the day when people are more likely to read it) along with a hot bowl of creamy tomato soup.

As a side note, I normally would have bought another bottle of the Saison du Buff to pair with dinner (we only had one left in the fridge). But when I went to Total Wine to get another bottle on Saturday, they were COMPLETELY SOLD OUT. And then the day of breadmaking I had a headache and was feeling really lazy and didn’t want to run out again, so I decided to just cook with it and leave the pairing for another time. I’m sure it would have been awesome though. The herbs in the beer (and the light body) would have gone well with the meatballs, which were heavy but had many of the same spices (like the bread).

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