Monthly Archives: February 2012

Drink This Beer: Hop Stoopid

There’s something magical about 8.0 ABV beers that get me excited. Hop Stoopid is one of those beers.

Is there a Stoopid amount of Hops in this? Only one way to find out...

I cracked the bottle and put my nose in the vicinity of the bottle. Immediately you pick up on a rich, tree fruity aroma. It’s very inviting and looks great in a glass. Plus, the bottle cap is pretty cool – who doesn’t love Labs?

My souvenir London fridge magnet bottle opener

You have to almost pour it recklessly to get any head on the beer. Again, as you pour it gives off an amazing aroma. The hops are palatable before you even drink it. Perhaps someone at Lagunitas did get Stoopid when adding the hops. Let’s have a drink.

Great, light color. Not much head.

Holy shit. Imagine taking some mash of hops and malt and putting it in both cheeks of your mouth, then sipping the beer. As you do, someone sprints towards you with a wet hop bag just removed from the brewing cycle and clubs you over the face. That’s essentially the experience of drinking this beer. It’s quite nice.

And why not. This has a whopping 102 IBU, which stands for International Bittering Units. About.com notes: “Beers with IBUs greater than 45 are heavily hopped and can be quite bitter.” Oh, really? No joke. Half of this big beer is gone and my stomach is going insane.

During the course of typing this post, the high IBU and high ABV have begun to take effect. This is a good thing, but this is definitely a one-beer-per-sitting beer.

I’ve never heard of Lagunitas Brewing Co. (of Petaluma, California) before buying this beer in the Impulse Beer section at Schnucks, but I’m glad I gave it a shot. If you are a fan of hops, then give this a try. If not, steer clear.

My recommendation for Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Hop Stoopid: Drink This Beer (at your own peril)

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Scammers are Scum

This is not related to BBQ or Beer. Well, I am drinking some beer while writing this, so that’s about it. During my day job, when my daily Simvastatin regimen is not battling the pork / alcohol regimen, I pay the bills as an intellectual property attorney.

On the short list of things that irritate me are people who order Bud Light in a bar. Gawd, that beer is awful. Another thing? Ripoffs. One type of ripoff is the scam. If it smells like a scam, looks like a scam, etc., then it’s probably a scam. Remember: Scammers are scum.

Mr. Big Client got this (redacted) item in the mail the other day:

Who can spot the clues?

Mr. Corporate Finance Guy at Mr. Big Client may just pay this in due course. $375 isn’t much for some important trademark bill. Shit, it’s DUE NOW?! PAY ASAP! On to the next invoice… this is what the people cashing the sucker check are hoping happens.

Let your common sense decide if this is legit. I will provide some research and opinion. Here’s the clues.

1. US Trademark Registration Office. Never heard of it. Ever. It sure looks a lot like the US Patent & Trademark Office, where you send actual, official filings and filing fees for federal trademarks. Heck, even USTRO looks amazingly similar to USPTO.

2. The real USPTO has no office in Los Angeles that I am aware of. They are based in Alexandria, Virginia. The vast majority of the Executive Branch is based in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

3. What’s at 633 West Fifth Street in Los Angeles? Amazingly, it’s the building at the epicenter of one of the first alien attacks in Independence Day! Remember that party on the roof? Didn’t end well.

Maybe E.T. got one of those invoices.

Well, it’s also the location of a company that lets you host a virtual office, coincidentally also located on the 28th floor of that building. So maybe USTRO is just using this prestigious address for mail delivery? Do they even have operations there?

4. So, what does this cost? A mere $375? Now, where have I seen that fee before? Ah, yes, that’s the fee for filing a trademark application the old fashioned way – through the mail. (It’s cheaper to file online.) We just paid a $375 bill a couple months ago on this, must be another one just like it… may as well pay it!

5. What I find truly amazing is that they posted the required statutory language in the mailing. You cannot mail a solicitation that is disguised as an invoice unless you prominently state that it is a solicitation. This guy either is (or was) an attorney, has an attorney, and/or is seriously experienced at this type of activity. Of course it’s buried at the end of some paragraphs containing references to official government agencies and references to cancellation of the trademark, but it’s still on there.

6. No phone number, no email, no fax – no surprise. I also can’t find anything on the California Secretary of State business entity search database. How odd.

7. Ah, Google. My dear friend. If you search this… entity, you get accidental hits to the USPTO, followed by a bunch of complaints on ripoffreport.com. This started in December 2011 and I found at least 19 separate complaints on that site alone. When a bunch of people suddenly start complaining, it may not be a coincidence.

8. Looking to the uploaded documents on the Rip Off Report website, you might notice something common about them! Each reference number is friggin’ identical: TRB-1781712. In fact, the numbers under the bar codes (2011-2REQ-5FGJ-USTRO and 2REQ-5FGJ-USTRO) are also consistent throughout the postings. Each matches with the document sent to my client. So… I guess these are not unique to each recipient? Do they have any meaning whatsoever, other than to give the impression of random numbers meant to distinguish between clients and/or trademarks? Were these the lucky numbers on the back of last night’s fortune cookie scroll?

9. Wow, they have a Trademark Registration and Monitoring Division within USTRO. Perhaps this is distinct from, and I’m just speculating wildly here, the Uh, Oh The Feds Are On To Us Division and the Time To Change The Name Of The Company Again Division.

10. Finally, the USPTO (not the USTRO) and the International Trademark Association have warnings about sketchy mailings that look official and want money in return. USTRO is not listed there, and I’m sure it’s not because they’ve only been around since December 2011. I’m totally sure it’s because this is a legit enterprise and this is all a huge misunderstanding.

Needless to say, Mr. Big Client did not pay this invoice.

In my humble opinion, this smells scammy. Scammers are scum, so I avoid the stench. I’ll drink to that.

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Drink This Beer: Single-Wide IPA

Finally an IPA for hop lovers: Single-Wide IPA. Boulevard pulls no punches with the hops in this refreshing brew. Six types of hops!

Trailer life has never been so glamorous

Very distinct from another recently-recommended IPA, Single-Wide has the crisp, light flavor and aroma of a more traditional American version of an IPA.

It keeps a nice head and has a cloudy wheat-like appearance, but the aroma and taste give it away.

This beer casts a long shadow over other purported IPAs

This is an easy beer to drink with just about any BBQ, but, speaking from experience, it is a great pairing with pork steaks, chicken wings, and ribs. I like my summer BBQ spicy and this beer is a great companion.

Boulevard holds a special place in my heart. It’s one of the earliest midwestern craft brewers, and I had a lot of experience getting to know their portfolio during my college years in Kansas City. Boulevard’s sample pack lets you see what kind of other offerings they put out. Among my favorites are Bob’s ’47 and the Bully! Porter. My wife’s standby is the Boulevard Wheat, the first beer I can remember drinking with a lemon slice.

My recommendation for Single-Wide IPA: Drink This Beer

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BBQ Techniques

When I was old enough to be trusted with a can of lighter fluid and some matches, my parents had me BBQ dinner all the time. It generally went like this:

Flaming Death

Everything tasted like shit. Unless you are Selma Bouvier, you can tell when lighter fluid has been used. You can also tell the difference between dry, burnt, awful BBQ and something edible. I cooked like a moron caveman. Heat good, kill germs.

The only things you should be cooking directly are things that you want to cook fast or something that you want a sear/crisp on. I have plans for oxtail that require a sear and beef tongue slices (yes, you read that right) that require a quick cook.

I didn’t BBQ much at all in college. I spent more time learning about the other half of this blog: beer.

During law school, though I developed a secret love of late night infomercials. One with a local flavor was a Super Smokers infomercial. They explained indirect grilling, smoking, etc. It was an epiphany.

Now just about everything gets cooked this way:

Indirect grilling: yer doin' it right

Cooking indirectly lets me control the heat, preserve moisture, add smoke. Many benefits come with cooking this way.

I try not to waste food. Right-minded people are omnivores and that means frequently eating something that was alive. If some pig, cow, deer, etc. gave its life to become food, why make terrible food? Plenty of people don’t get good food, much less flavorful BBQed meat, so why not do it right?

This brings me to the smoker. I have a 55 gallon drum that may or may not have contained toxic chemicals. The plan is to clean and paint the inside with grill paint, make a grill/wood basket, add some base baffles, and insert a 22.5″ grill grate. Here is the plan:

Looks like a baby bottle, but it's my detailed smoker plans

I’m psyched to get this thing fired up and get some turkeys, beef ribs, etc. on there ASAP.

Finally, to preview this weekend, I will be making stuffed chicken breasts with some venison/cornbread/mushroom stuffing, wrapped in bacon of course. Apparently some deer meat comes in camouflage plastic bags. Well, hell yeah.

I don't see anything

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Drink This Beer: 400 Pound Monkey

How can you not buy a beer called 400 Pound Monkey? The name got me to stop and look, and being an IPA got me to buy. Plus, I’ve only had great success with Left Hand Brewery.

Not very intimidating for a 400 lb monkey

Left Hand Brewery says it’s not like the others. They could not be more accurate. This tastes next to nothing like a standard IPA. There is far less hoppyness (that slightly bitter taste) than you might expect. It tastes more like a brown ale with some hops and a fruity finish. Lots of flavor, great amber color.

Right handed people have been known to enjoy this as well

It’s a great beer, but don’t buy it if you are looking for a hoppy IPA. At a hearty 6.8% ABV, it’s a good thing this beer is rich enough that you drink them slowly. I’d buy it again for sure.

My recommendation for 400 Pound Monkey: Drink This Beer

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Super Bowl BBQ Beans

I once entered a BBQ beans contest. One of the judges told me that I made the best beans he had ever eaten. Nice, but I didn’t win. I will try to replicate the recipe I made that day when I was many ABInBev products deep.

Beans: 1/2 lb each of dry red and black beans, soaked for 24 hours in cold water. They were rinsed twice after soaking.

Sauce: 1/4 cup molasses, 3/4 cup bourbon whiskey (I am a Jim Beam fan), 1 cup apple juice, 1 cup water, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1/2 chopped white onion.

I chopped about 3/4 lb sliced bacon and mixed that into the bean / sauce mixture, then put it on the grill.

Beans, beans, the musical fruit ... er, legume

I put it over direct heat with plenty of coals. I am using a restaurant-grade sauce pan from Sam’s Club with a silicone grip.

I wish you could smell this...

Stir frequently. Eventually all of the pork fat will break down from the bacon and the sauce will thicken. You don’t want to burn the beans at that point.

After an hour or so, most of the bean liquid will have boiled off, but the beans won’t be done. Be prepared to add one or two cups of hot/warm water to the beans and stir. This step will need to be repeated as the beans cook.

You will probably need to add more coals as the fire dies down. Start with a rolling boil and let it simmer as it cooks.

Hey, this would be a great time to crack a (case of) beer.

Hell yeah!

The thing to remember about beans is that they can take a really, really long time on the grill. Keeping them wet will prevent burning. If you ever hit a moment of panic, as I did recently, pour your newly-opened beer into the beans. It’s a hearty flavor and gives something else liquid to burn off.

Once the beans are done, you can chop up some fresh parsley and maybe some cilantro. I added some freeze dried chives this time. All of the pork fat can thicken the beans significantly, to the point that they get a refried beans texture if you let them cool too much. Before eating, may I suggest a little Beano.

Technically still a veggie

You are going to get three serious flavors at once: Sugar, bacon, smoke. The beans are not the star here. You can taste the BBQ flavors, as opposed to if you had cooked them on a stove top. Seriously, though, the sugar comes through strongly. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, cut the brown sugar down from 1 1/2 cups to a half cup and omit the apple juice.

When I entered this in a competition, I used a bunch of brown mustard, possibly even a whole 12 oz bottle. It was a long day and the beer truck was nearby / bottomless. Who can really say for sure.

As an aside, I once made these with some salted pork belly (with the skin on) that I smoked for about two hours. It was epic. Maybe I’ll try that again soon.

Clean Up: Cooking with a sauce pan on the grill coats everything in a brownish / blackish layer of smokey gunk. Just get some Dawn dish soap and a coarse sponge to clean it up. It comes off surprisingly well, but the nooks and crannies of the pot will be tough to clean. I infuriated my wife using a nice pot on the grill a few years ago, so get some dedicated BBQ cookware if you want to avoid the couch.

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Drink This Beer: Magic Hat #9

Most grocery stores have a bunch of crap for you to buy right at the check out lanes. You’re leaving the store, but you didn’t realize you needed Scotch tape, a travel sized lint roller, M&Ms, 3 oz. of WD-40, or watch batteries. These are strategically placed and priced to get some chucklehead to pitch one or two into his cart at the last second. The store makes a high margin and the shopper has some other thing for the junk drawer or piece of candy he didn’t need.

The beer aisle has an impulse section, too, but you probably didn’t notice it.

At the Webster Groves Schnucks grocery store, the beer aisle is set up thusly:

First, you pass through the Mexican beers and the crappy American beers with some kind of lime flavoring. Then the rest of the imports, mostly consisting of megabrew products. After that you reach the American craft brews. St. Louis is well-represented in this aisle. Next, you have several coolers of megabrews, dominated by ABInBev, followed by the cheap-o beers.

Finally, you are ready to leave the aisle. You have your beer in the cart, and you are ready to get some beans, meat, and bacon. Just as you are leaving, you see a collection of Big Beers on your left in the last cooler. Ah, the impulse buy section of the beer aisle is upon you.

My impulse buy for the day is Magic Hat #9.

Drink this beer

The Magic Hat Brewing Company calls it a “beer cloaked in secrecy” though I have no idea what that means.

My bias towards Ales, particularly English Ales, will become apparent. I just happened to luck out on this selection. I bought it because I had never had it before.

Pale in color, looks great in a glass

It’s not nearly as dark as traditional English Ales – it looks more like a Hefeweizen in the glass. It’s light, but has a good body and a crisp flavor, not particularly effervescent. Again, you need to remind yourself that it’s an ale. It was a great pairing for pork tenderloin.

One of the great things about Magic Hat, aside from their beer, is the incredible artwork on each beer label. These beers have been very thoughtfully made, down to the details.

My recommendation for Magic Hat #9: Drink This Beer

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Mushroom Misfortune

My semi-ambitious Super Bowl BBQ Menu included a stuffed mushroom appetizer. I was psyched to try this recipe.

A 10 oz. package of baby portabella mushrooms gives you about 14 bellas. It’s easy enough to pry out the stems with a little finger pressure to the side, done while washing them under some running water.

Clean and ready to get stuffed

You only need half of a 4 oz container of crumbled gorgonzola. Each baby bella will only take 3-5 big crumbles. You need room for the muffaletta salad.

Salty hash

Muffaletta salad is basically a chopped mixture of olives and other antipasto. This one had a couple types of olives, artichoke hearts, pimento, among other things. It makes a great sandwich spread with salami. Each mushroom got a heaping tablespoon of the salad. Then I wrapped everybody in bacon.

About to meet a tragic end...

I have made this recipe before in the oven with no bacon, mozzarella in place of gorgonzola, and olive tapenade instead of muffaletta. It’s a quick, simple appetizer that’s rich in flavor (and sodium).

The BBQ plan was to put these on a wood soaked cedar plank and give them 15 minutes or so on indirect heat. I assembled all of the mushrooms on the plank, set it on the counter, and went outside to check on the other food already on the grill.

Unfortunately, the family dog had acquired a taste for bacon after eating her Super Bowl BBQ doggie treats. While I was tending to the Weber 22″, Sam got on her hind legs and ate 12 of the 14 raw bacon-stuffed mushrooms. I caught her in the act and blurted out something along the lines of “Holy shit, Sam, what the hell are you doing?” or perhaps something far more profane.

Prime Suspect, caught in the act (File Photo)

I tossed the dog slobber-covered cedar plank. I cooked the survivors indirectly with some hickory smoke for about 10 minutes. They were great.

The thing to remember about this appetizer is its saltiness. Bacon, muffaletta salad, gorgonzola cheese … all salty. This is a high sodium appetizer, so have a beer in hand to wash things down accordingly. And keep the damn dog in the basement.

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Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

I’ve made this BBQ recipe with great success in the past. If you prep everything in advance, the BBQ process is quite easy. It’s really simple.

Make a “bed” of bacon. I used a 9″ x 13″ glass pan and lined up the bacon so that they slightly overlapped each other.

Bed of bacon

I cored an apple and sliced it, followed by a generous helping of gorgonzola cheese.

Who will sleep in this bed?

Mr. Tenderloin followed. I repeated the layering of apple and gorgonzola cheese.

Someone needs to be tucked in

After it’s wrapped up in bacon, I let it sit in the fridge overnight. It doesn’t necessarily need to rest overnight. I was just prepping a day in advance. Once it’s grill time, I put it on a wood soaked cedar plank over indirect heat in the Weber 22″. (At this point I would normally brush the outside of the entire thing with some olive oil, but I forgot to do it this time.)

Bacon mattress, cedar plank box spring, apple pillows

I let it smoke on the plank, with some of my leftover soaked hickory wood. It sat for two hours.

Two hours later...

Things have gone well. The cheese has not escaped, though the bacon is a little blackened.

Looks great sliced up

This is a seriously easy BBQ recipe and technique. The bacon fat seals in a lot of the moisture and the sliced apples supplement what would be lost. The plank prevents the bottom from burning and provides an amazing smoky flavor. You can omit the gorgonzola (as my kids prefer) if that’s not your thing. Good luck!

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Super Bowl Brisket

Brisket can be a challenge. It’s tough, it dries out easily, it’s not uniform in thickness. Patience is key.

I have made what I consider to be mediocre-at-best brisket. One of the reasons I hold Pappy’s in such high esteem is because it’s pretty much the best brisket I have ever eaten.

There’s really three keys to a good brisket, in my opinion: Season, Smoke, Steam.

I am using a 3.5 lb cut of a brisket, not the whole thing. I’m not Steven Raichlen and I’m not serving 30 people. My family of 5 destroyed a less-than-excellent 4 lb brisket last month, so this is a good size for our needs.

Moo, I am delicious

In the Super Bowl seasoning version of brisket, I used a mustard-based paste. I have heard this is a German technique, but I have no idea. More commonly this is used on spiral cut ham.

Paste: 12 oz. bottle spicy brown mustard (I prefer Gulden’s), 2 cups brown sugar (I used the molasses-treated cane sugar, though the real unrefined brown sugar is better), 1/2 cup paprika, 1/4 cup Lawry’s seasoned salt, and a generous squeeze of honey. Whisk it with a fork until fairly consistent. You will just have to live with the brown sugar lumps – you can’t get them all.

It looks like this in the bowl:

Tastes better than it looks

And it looks like this smeared on the brisket:

Like frosting a cake... a meat cake

I stuck it in the fridge overnight, wrapped snuggly in foil. Before going to bed, I also put a few bags of hickory wood chunks (not chips) into a 5 gallon bucket to soak overnight. They will want to float, so put a dinner plate and a brick on top to keep them submerged.

I've got wood

We had to go to 11:00 am mass, so I set up my coals for indirect cooking by 10:00am.

Coals / wood on one side...

The brisket went on the grill at 10:30 am. Once on the grill, I positioned the Weber 22″ grill’s lid vents over the meat, so that the smoke and heat is drawn out the vent past the meat.

... meat on the other side

Speaking of Steven Raichlen, he encourages lubricating the grill with a half onion dipped in olive oil. Stick the onion with a BBQ two-pronged fork and rub along the grill surface. I have done this frequently and it does a good job of keeping the meat from sticking to the grill and makes the grill itself last a little longer.

Olive Oil Lube... everybody wins

After praising Jebus for a little over an hour, I checked on the brisket. After two hours of smoking, the coals and wood were nearly gone, but still hot. The brisket at its thickest point had an internal temperature of 160 degrees. I rotated the brisket 180 degrees and flipped it over.

Two hours of smoke!

I re-loaded the grill with charcoal and wood. The key here, and the key for long smoking, is not to add too much charcoal. I have been guilty of this many times. Going slowly and patiently with the charcoal will prevent the meat from drying out, cooking too quickly, and getting a nice smoke ring in the meat. If you have a heavy hand on the charcoal, you will have overdone meat. In the case of brisket, it will be way too tough.

One of the great things about brisket is the burnt ends. When I was just starting college in Kansas City, a group of us went to a place called Jack Stack in Martin City, Missouri. I ordered one of the house specialties: the burnt ends. It was, to that point, the best BBQ I had ever had. They served it dry (no sauce), with cole slaw and pickles, on a hoagie bun.

A brisket cut, for the most part, is a thick cut of meat. Along two edges, though, the meat thins in thickness. During a hard smoke on the BBQ, this part of the meat gets an intense smoke flavor and can become tough nuggets of godliness. You can do a lot with burnt ends. I am considering trimming them, shredding them, and putting it in to my baked beans (another post). I may just eat them right off of the grill. Either way, these will not tenderize with the rest of the brisket.

After a total of three hours smoking, the brisket paste is crisped.

Three hours of smoking

It’s ready to steam. I doubled up some tough foil and made a boat around the brisket. I poured in a little apple juice (maybe 1/2 cup) to steam, and crimped it tightly around the meat to tenderize. It sits on the grill indirectly for another three hours.

BBQ Brisket Boat

I gave the brisket foil steam pouch a 180 degree turn after an hour steaming.

Post-Smoke Steaming brisket. Joyous.

Now would be a good time to drink a beer. May I suggest a Schlafly.

You can't technically BBQ without some beers

Finally, at 4:30pm, 6 hours after it went on the grill, I took off the brisket. Let it set for 10-15 minutes. Letting it sit is actually a critical step in BBQ; meat muscle relaxation, or something like that. I carved it against the grain.

You can kind of see the smoke ring here...

With all due respect to Pappy’s, this is about the best brisket I have ever had. I am shocked by how good this is. Holy hell.

Thank you, cow

Give it a shot. It took a long time, 24 hours of prep, 6 hours to cook total, but it was more than worth it. Good luck.

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