Monthly Archives: March 2012

Drink This Beer: Epic Pale Ale

Last week, in an attempt to at least partially repay my father for giving me life, raising me, and passing on horrible male pattern baldness, I treated him to a night of drinking beers and a trip to see George Thorogood and the Destroyers.This is one of my all time favorite CDs:

Imma tell ya a story, called the house rent blues...

An Epic Night calls for an Epic Beer. Behold: Epic Pale Ale.

Epic Win

Before the show, we went a few doors down to the Pin-Up Bowl for a couple of frosty beers. My dad picked some red ale, but I knew immediately that something called Epic Pale Ale was for me. It even came in a big beer bottle.

As we watched an old drunk white guy on the sidewalk try to pick a fight with two huge, exceptionally patient bouncers, I poured myself a glass of New Zealand ale.

Pardon the poor quality of the photos. I am using an antique camera phone in a dark bar, all while drinking beers.

Not that you can tell from that shitty photo above, but the color is a respectable amber. For something “Epic”, I was met with a mere 45 IBU and 5.4% ABV.

The notable thing about this beer is that you get plenty of hops and no fruitiness at all. Many hopped ales will have flowery aromas and sweet notes to finish. Not this beer. This is a no nonsense hopped ale. The Epic Beer website mentions apricot and orange peel scents, but I picked up on none of that. Perhaps the multi-hemisphere journey somehow depleted the full flavor of this beer. No worries, it was still really good.

If you are looking for a solid hoppy ale from a country regarded by Australians (of all people) as weird, then by all means: Drink This Beer

Epilogue:

We had a great time at the show. I mean, it was awesome. He ran through a ton of the hits. Once in The Pageant, the beer of choice was Ranger IPA. We had a bunch.

Bad to the Bone

You know, when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself

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BBQ & Beer Heartbreak

Earlier today I received a horrible email. Here it is:

Dear BBQers,

Unfortunately, the World Pork steak Championship will no longer be run or hosted by Schlafly Beer. While it was a fun event, it was not sustaining itself financially.

As a result, we have replaced it with another event on the same weekend. The new event will be hosted downtown, and it will not involve any competition.

http://www.schlafly.com/events/calendar/2012/05/26/pork-shop-/

Cheers,

[Schlafly guy’s signature block redacted]

What a horrible nightmare. Each year on Memorial Day Saturday, we would schlep up Big Bend and down Manchester to Southwest and visit the old Shop ‘n Save that The St. Louis Brewery turned into the Schlafly Bottleworks. In their parking lot we would engage in some competitive tailgating.

A few years ago, I bought a sixer of Schlafly and a little card was sticking out. Intrigued, I saw that I was invited to enter the World Pork Steak Championships. Each team needed to submit BBQed pork steaks and an appetizer, the app being paired with a beer. I tracked down a partner to handle the appetizer and we were off.

The first year we entered, we had no idea what we were doing. I finished a respectable 7th. Not bad for my first competition ever. Leading up to the event, we tried a half dozen recipes and practiced together for weeks. At the event, we snuck in a few cases of beer and cooked all day. What a great time.

In the following years, I tinkered with the recipe and never did very well. Despite my horrible showings, I still always placed higher than my appetizer partner. Now… nothing.

In fact, my logo for this blog was that first pork steak, right before I cut it up to serve it to the judges:

7th place pork steak

I will sincerely miss that event. We had already begun talking about practicing together. I guess we can still get together to grill on the weekend over the next two months, but it will be lacking the annual spring BBQ anticipation.

Damn shame. Heartbreak.

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Cedar Plank BBQ Rainbow Trout

After multiple requests, I’m going to give healthy BBQing a shot. It’s surprisingly simple, and sadly low on pork fat. If you have a cholesterol and/or diabetes problem, cooking fish on the BBQ is a great solution.

As much as I enjoy fishing, it’s a little early in the season. Sam’s Club has some nice fresh whole rainbow trout that will suit my needs.

Heeeeeere fishy fishy fishy fishy

I typically spend my summer fishing season casting a line out in a futile attempt to catch something worth eating or mounting. Instead, I usually just drink a bunch of canned beers and sweat like a dog in an aluminum boat. Once in a while, I pull out a pathetic fiddler catfish or something that looks like it could be great for live bait. Having caught nothing for days, a tiny fish is exciting.

Pathetic mud catfish

Anyway, back to the BBQ. Of the three fish, I will let my older two kiddos chop the head and tail off of one each, then watch me try to debone and butterfly them. It’s good to see where your food comes from.

One will be BBQed whole. The whole fish get cleaned off and then stuffed for smoking on the cedar plank. Inside Mr. Fish will go some peeled garlic and some sprigs of oregano, rosemary, and dill.

Tummy ache

The outside of the skin gets about four diagonal slits and a few lemon slices.

Not helping the tummy ache

The other two trout were decapitated, then I took off the tail, the fins, and made two filets from each fish, leaving the skin on. I put the four filets on the cedar plank, skin side down. The flesh got some salt, coarse black pepper, and a semi-random assorting of lemon slices and herbs.

Having never done this before, I hacked the hell out of a couple filets. I didn’t lose too much meat, though. It just looks like an uncoordinated idiot with a knife got a hold of the fish.

Two fish halves

I fed this to my son's evil goblin twin living in the attic

In addition to the rainbow trout, the kids like the Schnuck’s-prepared Parmesan breadcrumb encrusted Tilapia, so we had three planks going on one grill.

Lots of seafood

Crowded grill space

Just in case our guests weren’t interested in fish, we threw on a couple steaks: ribeye and strip, each with some salt and coarse pepper, cooked medium rare.

Steak: It's what's for dinner... if you don't care for fish

What an exhausting fiasco cooking all this food. Time for some beer. How about the Schlafly Helles Style Summer Lager?

Helles, hell yes

It’s a refreshing session beer with a light fruity aroma and aftertaste. The crisp, airy flavor goes well with BBQing, yard work, fishing, or just eating BBQed fish. Pick some up.

During all of this, I noticed that the betta fish became agitated, perhaps a little nervous.

Spiderman Ironman Simpson II is getting a little edgy at the sight of his cousins' slaughter

Checking in on the grill, things are going well. The grill has a very different smell as opposed to the usual pork / beef aromas. The light fish and herb smell is a nice change of pace. It simply looks amazing as the cedar plank does its magic.

Double rainbow (trout)!

Beautiful in death

In all, the BBQed meats paired up with some cold beers, red wine, roasted asparagus, foil-wrapped corn, and a vinaigrette salad.

The fruits of my labor

Comparing the two rainbow trout methods, each was distinct. The filets on the plank had a much richer cedar smoke flavor, as opposed to the whole fish, which had a milder herb flavor. Obviously this was due to the exposed flesh of the filets whereas the whole fish’s flesh was fairly well protected from the smoke. I found the textures to be very similar, as each was very moist and enjoyable.

Seeing that you can just buy deboned, pre-cut filets at the grocery store and get a savory BBQ experience, I may just go that route in the future. The presentation isn’t quite as cool as the whole fish, but the preparation would be much easier going forward.

Following this massive feast, we finished with a turtle cake. Yes.

Does the gluttony not end?

I’m tempted to try this technique with some sea bass and mahi mahi. It’s incredibly easy, very flavorful, and exceptionally healthy. Don’t expect much more healthy stuff from this blog anytime soon, though.

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Simpson Death S’mores

What constitutes a BBQ? Open flame and food, right? Well, I guess s’mores can be considered within the pantheon of BBQ. Tonight we make Simpson Death S’mores.

Condemned, prepare to die.

Why death? Because some Peeps need to die. Get some Peeps, be they bunnies or chicks, and skewer those fools.

Don't mind this. This is doctor's orders.

(Edited to add this note: Do not use a glass bowl. Use a metal bowl.) Get a few chocolate bars and put them in a metal or Pyrex-type glass bowl (no, do not do this) and place on a grill grate over the open flame.

Disaster in 3...2...1...

Wow. As the chocolate burned, I poured a little milk in the bowl and started to stir with a spatula. Who knew the Pyrex bowl would frickin’ explode into a zillion pieces? Shit. After cleaning up that fiasco, we moved on to a metal bowl with some more chocolate and some 2% milk. Stir well, then remove from the incredibly hot flames.

Far less volatile. Ready for burnt Peeps.

Flame the poor pathetic Peeps until they are near death, then give them a good molten chocolate dunking.

Burn, Peeps, Burn!

Dunk-a-roo

After this abuse, smoosh the Peep victims in between some graham crackers and consume messily. Note that the chicks dissolved and fell off of the skewers, while the bunnies managed to make it from dunk to cracker fairly well. Who would’ve guessed.

Pink peep + chocolate + fire = blood?

I have to say, these are awesome. As an avid Peep zealot, I really enjoyed these. The chocolate was even, creamy, and sweet, and the Peeps were both molten in the center and the exterior sugar crystalized well.

Yes. Crack a cold beer and revel in your children’s consumption of this decadent morbid treat.

Summit's 25th year anniversary beer. Excellent.

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Drink This Beer: Mt. Carmel IPA

I managed to make it out of Cincinnati no worse for the wear. Although I regrettably did not get to Graeter’s Ice Cream, we still had a great time at the aquarium, Skyline Chili, Dewey’s Pizza, and at their epic beer shop, Dutch’s. Aside from being a restaurant and wine bar, this place has a massive walk up window of beer from around the country and across the globe. It’s a little overwhelming the first time you approach it, so much so that I had to make two different trips during my visit.

What else would I do while there but crush some local brew. How about some Mount Carmel India Pale Ale?

What's left of a six pack

Again, I go to the guy at the Dutch’s window and ask for some local brew. He recommends Mt. Carmel. Out of their many options, I picked the IPA. My bias comes through again.

How about that great beer color?

I found this IPA to be very refreshing, but there was nothing distinct about it. I had it with some spicy thai-ish chicken and pasta. Based on the mild hoppiness, I was a little surprised to see the 56 IBU. This is a very crisp, perky beer with a mild fruity finish and a full 7.0% ABV. I was not overwhelmed by any of the hops bitterness, but you could enjoy this beer by itself or with any number of foods. My hefeweizen-loving wife did not care for it, but my sister-in-law had a couple.

Check out the excellent color in the beer. It’s slightly cloudy with an amazing amber haze, and a nice robust head. Good all-around beer, but nothing about it made me say “woah”.

In the end, I would buy this again. Probably a great compliment to a hot midwest summer day. My recommendation for Mt. Carmel IPA: Drink This Beer

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Drink This Beer: Rivertown Brewing Company Helles Lager

During my weekend trip to Cincinnati, I debased myself and had a series of chili cheese coney hot dogs at Skyline Chili for lunch. Whaddaya gonna do?

Guess who's sleeping on the couch tonight?

What better to wash this down than a few local beers? May I introduce you to Rivertown Brewing Company Helles Lager.

Rivertown Beer... one of the finer tastes of the area.

Technically not a Cincinnati beer, this stuff hails from Lockland, Ohio, just about ten minutes out of town. Still, it’s local enough for my purposes. I asked the guy at the beer store for something local and he made me a mixed sixer of Rivertown. Nice.

Rivertown makes a handful of beers, including a Dunkel and the Hop Bomber Pale Ale. I have to say that the Helles Lager is my favorite among them. (Yes, I sampled a few.) Let’s get it in a glass.

Good beer in a Crate & Barrel glass

It’s light, crisp, refreshing. The perfect thing for washing some Ohio chili out of my gullet and minimizing the end damage. Like many Helles-style beers, this has a nice yellow color with a hint of amber. Nicely effervescent with a hearty head, and a respectable 5.3% ABV. I know it’s technically winter here in Cincinnati, but it’s 80+ degrees. Perfect.

I’m going to look for this the next time I hit up Friar Tuck’s when I get back to STL. My recommendation for Rivertown Brewing Company’s Helles Lager: Drink This Beer

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Drink This Beer: Founders Centennial IPA

Greetings from the Queen City of Cincinnati, where the baseball and football teams suck, but the pizza, chili, and ice cream is excellent. (Maybe that explains the obese redneck problem we observed across the river at the aquarium in Newport, Kentucky.) We took in lunch at one of the many local Dewey’s Pizza restaurants, a pizza chain that has expanded to the St. Louis metro area in the past few years.

While in Dewey’s, I figured that I would take the opportunity to try a new craft brew. Founders Centennial IPA out of Michigan sounded like a good pairing with salad and pizza.

I took a few sips before the camera turned on

As with most IPAs, you get some hoppiness, but it is not as strong as some other IPAs. It’s more of a refined ale taste with a mild, fruity aroma.

Dewey's salad with pine nuts, craisins, goat cheese

Went well with a salad. This particular salad had a fruity, creamy vinaigrette that was cleaned up by the crisp bitter beer. I’m really sipping this beer slowly. Founder’s IPA is quite enjoyable, but not a quick drinking beer.

Hawaiian pizza and IPA beer

It sure went well with pizza. Again, the tangy sauce, sweetness of the pineapple and ham, all paired up with the hoppy ale. Centennial IPA has a nice 7.2% ABV and a hearty 65 IBUs, though it seemed less bitter than that.

Apparently it even won some prize at the World Beer Cup, taking a silver medal in the 2012 event in the American Style IPA category. Well-deserved. (Checking that list, I see that something called Norm’s Raggedy-Ass IPA, by the Big Rock Chop House & Brewery in Birmingham, MI won the gold medal. Mental note.)

Anyway, it was a great lunch paired with a great beer. Definitely worth buying again. My recommendation for Founders Centennial IPA: Drink This Beer

NB: While on the topic of Cincinnati, I’d like to note that Brandon Phillips sucks. While he was sitting at home pouting this past fall… I was attending this event in Downtown STL.

Not Pictured: Brandon Phillips

Pictured: Something Brandon Phillips will probably never touch without paying museum admission

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Drink This Beer: Stone IPA

After a couple of posts unrelated to Beer or BBQ, one meant to shine a positive light on an exemplary member of my profession, the other to degrade a university’s basketball team that is about the only thing going for Centralized Rectangle State, let’s get in a quick beer review.

Recently I sampled and reviewed Arrogant Bastard Ale. It was a delicious beer with intense flavors, so you have to wonder if Stone IPA stands up to the reputation by it’s brother.

Juuuuuust a little bit of head on that beer

This is another one of those IPAs where you get an immediate whiff of hops bitterness the instant you crack the bottle cap. Stone IPA is a serious beer.

From that picture, it looks like I was going nuts pouring this beer after shaking the bottle like a maniac. No, I had the glass tilted and poured it slowly. I got that much of a massive head on the beer. I finally sampled it after letting it settle.

At 6.95% ABV and a hearty 77 IBU, this IPA has a robust hop bitterness. Seriously, this is a very hoppy beer. Lots of IPAs have a fruity finish, but I didn’t pick it up here. My non-hophead wife took a sip and recoiled.

I like this beer, but it is an intense IPA. I tend to retreat back to English-style ales after a hop beating like this. It’s a damn good beer, but I would stick to one per evening. Perhaps pairing it with something spicy that cuts the bitterness is the solution, like chicken wings or pizza drowned in hot sauce. My recommendation, still, is: Drink This Beer

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Why, yes, I do hate KU. Why do you ask?

I guess St. Mary’s, as a No. 7 seed, is probably a little too highly ranked to beat KU this season. Usually it’s a double-digit B-school. I see a #14 Belmont creeping up there in the bracket. Hmmm….

My disdain for KU is strong, rooted in four years of college in Kansas City, Missouri. I met many KU fans and visited the school several times, each event reinforcing my prejudice.

I fondly recall 2010. I was participating in a fantasy baseball draft… I was dared to drink a High Life per round. (I finished in last place that season.) After several Buttermaker Boilermakers* I made my way to the parish trivia night where I was completely useless. News of Northern Iowa’s dismantling of #1 overall Kansas reached the gymnasium as we pulled up to trivia night. The place went berserk. The one honk in KU gear was ridiculed all night.

I also very fondly recall 2005, when Bucknell beat Kansas. I was sitting in a hotel room in Chicago crushing Budweiser and Jim Beam with my brother after a long day of patent bar exam preparation. The weight of the idiotic-at-the-time, but smart-in-hindsight Mark McGwire Congressional testimony hung high over my head. Only another humiliating defeat by KU at the hands of a woefully inferior opponent could bring glee back into my life.

Yes, I wept with joy as friggin’ Virginia Commonwealth University crushed KU in the Elite Eight last year. The image of that jackhole in the jayhawk hat crying his pathetic eyes out gets me all excited. Whenever I feel down, I think of that dude.

Bwahahahahahahahaaaa!!!

In fact, the image of Todd Reesing with that massive clump of grass stuck in his helmet during a Mizzou-Kansas beating in 2007 just gets me all fired up. Despite KU’s pathetic strength of schedule and failure to win it’s division, it still went to the Orange Bowl, where it beat a craparoo V. Tech. team. Good for them, but this image lingers.

Undeserved Orange Bowl Participant #1

I have no idea what I was doing when Bradley took down KU in 2006. Regardless, it brought me joy. Deep, intimate joy.

Some people think that I am some kind of Mizzou zealot. Nothing could be further from the truth. I like Mizzou as a taxpayer and proud resident of the state of Missouri. I am also a Billiken fan, having spent thousands and thousands of dollars on a legal education at that fine institution. So maybe The Outlaw Josey Wales is one of my all time favorite movies – pure coincidence.

I just hate KU. Nothing wrong with that. It’s only natural. I’m in the vast majority here. I am just waiting for the Blue Squab to suffer it’s nearly annual defeat to a woefully inferior opponent. This year, my brackets say that opponent is St. Mary’s. Godspeed.

* Buttermaker Boilermaker: Right out of the Bad News Bears, crack and pour out 1/4 of a Budweiser can, then replace the dismissed beer with Jim Beam. Consume, then coach children at baseball. It’s a poor fantasy draft elixir.

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Guest Post: Gluten-Free Beers

Amazingly, I do get suggestions for this blog. For example, a family contingent has asked for cholesterol-friendly foods, including stuff for diabetic people. (It’s coming, so be patient.) Someone else, hopefully in jest, asked me if I would be grilling squirrel. (No.)

A friend asked me to review gluten-free beers. I am unfortunate enough to have sampled gluten-free beers… I find them to be repellent. No damn way I am spending cash to buy some niche product that would make my stomach curdle. So, instead of me choking down some pseudo-beer, this friend offered to gag down some gluten-free brews and write a post about his (presumably) horrible experience. Fine by me.

I have experience with two gluten-free beers: First, some lady at Schnuck’s was sampling Red Bridge a few years ago. I took a sip and then praised Jebus that I can drink real beer. Second, one of my friends from law school suffers from some malady that prevents him from drinking normal beer. He left 3 out of 6 gluten-free beers from a highly-reputable craft brewer in my house after a poker night. Again, they were awful.

This disdain in mind, I introduce you to Nick G., who has read and agreed to the Copyright Policy. I have made little to no edits to his post and he provided the photos, though I did write the title for him.

GUEST POST

Gluten-Free Beers and Me: Coping with my Horrible Lot in Life, by Nick G.

What better place than a BBQ and beer blog for me to give some good options for those cutting gluten out of their diets or hosting gluten free guests. There are many misconceptions about gluten-free diets. For those unfamiliar with what gluten is, it’s the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten-sensitive individuals cannot digest gluten. If left undigested it acts a toxin, harming the intestines, cell membranes, and the function of the brain. This isn’t a medical blog so let’s get to the beer.

As many beer drinkers know, barley is essential to most brewing processes. However, brewers are learning how to use corn, sorghum, rice, and extracted barley malt to give us gluten-sensitive drinkers our beer back. Gone are the days of settling for Red Bridge or Bard’s Tale (which is better than Red Bridge if you are in a pinch). In a recent trip to Binny’s in Chicago, IL, I found some great gluten-free ales and lagers worth the inflated price. Please note: gluten free beers are going to taste different (EDITORS NOTE: he means “weird and unpalatable”), and those not required to follow gluten free diets may not be as impressed as someone like myself. Those strictly following a gluten free diet will appreciate the efforts of these brewers.

Most impressively, one Spanish brewer has perfected a process in which they extract malt from the barley plant without pulling a significant amount of gluten. The lager, Daura, from brewer Estrella Damm is widely consider the best gluten free beer in the world, winning awards several years in a row. Technically, Daura has gluten, but only 6 parts per milliliter, which is well under the 20 ppm required by most gluten-free authorities. Daura possesses the classic lager golden color and body you’d expect from your local micro or Euro brew. You’ll find a faint aroma of flowery hops and its taste approaches the spicy hopiness of a pilsner. As with most lagers, pair it just about anything off the grill: steaks, wings, burgers, ribs, chicken, pizza, or maybe even fajitas. Of course, you’ll have to use gluten free buns, pizza crust, corn tortillas, and un-breaded wings to hold true to a gluten free meal.

Gluten Free Beer #1

New Planet Brewery from Colorado has also done well producing some gluten free brews. Their Tread Lightly Ale and Off Grid Pale Ale are great for ale lovers. Tread Lightly is less bold than your average ale. It’s not quite bronze in color, lacks much of an aroma and the taste is light and citrusy. Any lighter and it might be confused as a pilsner. I’d pair it with lemon pepper chicken or fish or gluten-free pasta primavera.

Gluten Free Beer #2

Off Grid Pale Ale offers a more classic bronze color, classic ale taste, and smooth finish. The spicy hops and molasses dominate the taste and aroma, but there is a bit of citrus to be enjoyed. I typically enjoy pale ales for session drinking and rarely try to pair it with a meal, but if pressed I’d drink it with wild game type dishes such as boar, venison, pheasant and maybe even lamb (depending on how you prepare it).

Gluten Free Beer #3

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that ciders are naturally gluten free. When in doubt, get a cider (steer clear of Hornsby’s; they use traditional beer in the recipe). Magner’s, Strongbow, and Woodchuck are all reliable cider institutions. Fox Barrel and Crispin also have varieties most will enjoy. My favorite, though, is Magner’s Pear Cider. Serve in glass over ice and you’ll be impressed. Magner’s Pear isn’t as sweet as most apple-based ciders, is not as acidic, and has a true pear taste! Like pale ales, I find ciders are difficult to pair with a meal. I like them after dinner and with fruity desserts.

Gluten Free Beer #4

Choices are expanding everyday, but your best option is to go to large, corporate chain liquor stores (like Total Wine or Binny’s) to find a decent selection. If you fail to find a gluten-free beer option for your guests, remember that wine and distilled liquor are all gluten free regardless of the ingredients as gluten is broken down in the distilling process.

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