Monthly Archives: March 2012

Drink This Beer: Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew

If you have read any of my Drink This Beer posts, my affinity for ales, particularly English-style ales, should have come through. As such, I am a big fan of Fuller’s, an English brewery with over 150 years of heritage. I’d estimate that my favorite beer, if given the chance to pick one beer amongst others, is Fuller’s 1845. It’s a balanced, delicious, English strong ale. I could drink it with any meal at any time, or with no meal at all. I won’t review it here, since my goal for Drink This Beer is to try new things. However, you need to try that beer.

When I took a trip to England a few years ago, I had lots of Young’s and Fuller’s, including plenty of Fuller’s London Pride – another favorite you can get in six packs in the States. What all this means is that I hold the Fuller’s people and their brewery in high regard. This gave me no hesitation in selecting Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew.

Honey Dew beer in a bottle

I cracked it open and picked up on a slight but notable sweetness. Once in the glass, it has much more of a lager appearance than an ale. The color is a nice light amber, almost a yellowish hue. Easily the most translucent of English beers that I’ve sampled, though the poor quality of my photo below makes it look darker than it really is.

Sweeeeeeet English beer

I am a little surprised how much the flavor of honey comes through in the finish of this beer. I’m not just talking sweetness in a sugary sense, but the actual taste of a teaspoon of honey.

It’s as crisp and refreshing as you might expect from looking at it and seeing it poured, but there is a strong honey flavor. I guess the brewer got a little reckless in squeezing his plastic honey bear. If you don’t like honey, you will hate this beer. If you like sweeter beers with a refreshing finish, then this might be for you. It’s not a good example of English-style ales, but it is an interesting change of pace.

I don’t have any idea what I would pair this with in the ways of food. It’s that distinct.

Bee carcasses add a unique protein favor profile

Definitely unique, something I can have one of every once in a while. If you are some kind of honk for organic stuff and like sweeter beers, give this a shot. I liked it in moderation. My recommendation for Fuller’s Organic Honey Dew: Drink this Beer


Ketchup-Based Homemade BBQ Sauce (on Smoked Beef Brisket)

I’ve made my own BBQ sauce before, but it has typically been ketchup-free. I would cook a gallon of cider vinegar and a bunch of other stuff down to a thick, peppery, tangy maroon liquid. It’s pretty spectacular if made correctly.With the extra brisket from the recent birthday party BBQ thawed and smoking, I decided to try my hand at a homemade ketchup-based sauce.

Brisket on the smoker... rub nearly dissolved

I made a quick rub for the brisket: 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup paprika, a few tablespoons each of cayenne pepper, italian seasoning, garlic salt, Lawry’s seasoning, coarse black pepper. I also carved the fat off of the brisket with a sharp knife to permit the smoke to permiate the meat from all sides. This will enhance the flavor and tenderness. I actually found a wide variety of smoking wood at the local farmers’ market. Today I am using a mixture of peach tree wood and hickory. It’s cut into slices instead of just chunks. Pretty neat. 

On to the sauce: in a medium to small saucepan on the stove, I combined 1 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, about 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, a nice squeeze of honey, a few tablespoons each of onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper. I resisted the temptations to add mustard or molasses, and I’ve heard some people will melt a stick of butter into the sauce. Maybe another time. Everything was mixed in the pan with a silicone spatula and allowed to simmer for a while.

Simmering sauce

Once it’s done and the brisket hits about the 4 hour mark, I will coat the meat with the sauce to finish on the smoker.

Now would be a good time to crack a craft mix pack. How about something from New Belgium? Sounds good to me!

Follow my folly? No problem!

At the two hour mark, the brisket is cooking well and the smoker is holding steady at just short of 200 degrees and the brisket has an internal temperature of 150 degrees. I added more coals and wood, and I won’t be back for a while.

It’s starting to drizzle here… If I can cook in snow, I can cook in some light rain.

Did I mention that it’s Selection Sunday?

Ranger IPA and the ACC title game? Nice.

I hope you spent it in a similar fashion.

After about 4 hours, I gave each side a thorough brushing with the homemade BBQ sauce. This was repeated a few times in the next couple hours, flipping the brisket a few times.

Let's get sauced

After all of the brushing, smoking, and cooking, I pulled it after six hours or so. I did not take the tenderizing step of making a foil boat and steaming the brisket with some juice. I probably should have, as the brisket turned out a little less tender than I liked.


In the end, the brisket was still delicious. We cut off the burnt ends and everyone went for those first – at least my family is getting discriminating meat tastes.

The BBQ sauce provided a spicy / sweet flavor and gave the burnt exterior a sticky finish. The sauce absorbed the smoke flavors well. Tomorrow I will make a few sandwiches for lunch as leftovers.

Hope you all had as nice a meal as this tonight

We grilled some broccoli, put some zucchini in the oven, and made a fruit salad. It was a great meal. Anytime the kids eat a ton, we did a good job.

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Drink This Beer: A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale

A random WordPress commenter read my review of some random impulse big beer that I bought: Hop Stoopid. In the comments, he/she told me to get a hold of other Lagunitas Brewery beer: A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale. Well, I went to Friar Tuck’s and picked some up. Good thing I did.

Who's up for a little sumpin' sumpin'?

I’m an unabashed Ale fan. A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale has an IBU of 64 (45 is hoppy) and an ABV of 7.5%. Bring it on!

Who doesn't like the paint can beer opener?

It has a fairly light color for an ale with this robust of an IBU. Still, it’s a very smooth beer with a nice hoppy, fruity finish. My wife is not a high hop fan, but she loved this stuff. I wasn’t getting much of a head on the beer with the glass tilted, so I got a little reckless in the pour, giving me a strong head. The aroma is great, but not remotely overpowering. It’s very easy to drink, so watch out with the 7.5% ABV.

I paired the beer with a smoked pork shoulder sandwich and things could not have gone better. The crisp, hoppy, fruity flavor was an amazing compliment to the spicy, smoky pork. This is not an overpowering beer. It’s not the star at the meal, but it doesn’t fade into the background. Very drinkable.

In the suburban St. Louis area, this stuff is $9.99 for a six pack, if you can even find it. Much love to Friar Tuck’s for having this in stock. Worth the price for sure.

For the second time I am reviewing a Lagunitas Brewery creation, and for the second time my recommendation is: Drink This Beer.


Drink This Beer (At Your Own Peril): Big Flats

Did you know Walgreen’s sells beer? It’s a relatively recent development here in suburban St. Louis. About this time last year, I was in Walgreen’s buying a bunch of crap I didn’t need when I came across a pallet of beer selling for $2.99 per six pack: Big Flats.

Uh oh

You could pejoratively call it “Walgreens Beer” but at 50 cents a can… it’s a price you can’t beat. Being that I chronically was low on cash 12 months ago, how could I not buy this stuff? I snagged a sixer on St. Patrick’s Day and settled in for a work-from-home 50-cent-beer day full of NCAA basketball. It was something like 70 degrees outside. Life was good.

Not pictured: Unsupervised children

It’s amazing what green food dye does to otherwise non-awesome beer.

Soon it came time for a fantasy baseball draft, something traditionally spent with “bad beers”, though I have only had a few truly Bad Beers (Bud Light being candidate #1). Once again, I called on my new friend, Big Flats.

Ready to draft like a moron again

I finished in third place, despite being a huge dumbass when it comes to fantasy sports. (I chalk up my “success” as due to being in a league full of idiots.)

Times improved (financially) and I could suddenly afford beer that did not come from a pallet at Walgreen’s. It’s been a while, but I had to take a late night trip to the drug store a couple days ago. Sitting there, next to the magazines, batteries, and Airborne, my old friend shot me a wink.

Amazingly, the cost of discarded mutant barley must have gone up! Big Flats is now $3.19 per six pack! This shocking inflation aside, I decided to saddle up and get some Big Flats. This isn’t the typical edition of Drink This Beer.

Scotland disapproves

Crack open the first one and take a whiff. Not good. It’s got a typical cheapo canned beer aroma. Don’t breathe it in too deeply, lest you get scar tissue in your trachea. Before consuming, make sure that it is unbelievably cold. Otherwise, your taste buds might collect the full impact of the brew as you hastily fling it down your gullet.

I suggest drinking it after cutting the grass, while fishing, or while doing anything where your senses can be distracted by other odors and tastes. Given the wateriness of the beer, it helps if you are in stifling heat.

Now, you need to drink this thing out of a can, typically quite quickly. I don’t want to soil a nice pint glass or one of my frosty mugs, but I want to get a photo of this beer outside of its usual habitats of can or belly, so I am using a rarely used juice glass as the Big Flats vessel.

Semi-translucent. Are you surprised?

It is exceptionally effervescent, with a tall but thin head. It’s more yellow than I anticipated, amazingly darker than Bud Light. I’ve never seen it unadulterated in a glass before.

As you sip it, your body will wonder, “Why are you doing this to me?” The only thing to stave off the inevitable bad beer headache is to quickly consume the remaining beers as fast as possible.

Taste… let’s see. Imagine if Pearl Beer had a love child with some Hamm’s. It’s too light to compare to Pabst or High Life. But it actually has an acrid, acidic flavor reminiscent of a high school chemistry lab test tube used to drink pooled rainwater from a Bronx rooftop.It’s bitter, but not like a hoppy IPA… more like licking a magnet. I am starting to feel strange pressure in my frontal lobe and get a little jaw pain.

I feel compelled to pour it back into the mare from whence it came. Instead, I will just drink the entire six pack, watch a DVRed Walking Dead, and probably get the taste out of my mouth with some Jim Beam and water.

Even Stephen Colbert is on board: “BIG, as in the quantity you can buy with the change between your couch cushions, and FLAT for both its taste and the position it will put your body in.” (Seriously, click the link and watch the video.)

My recommendation for Big Flats Beer, of course, is: Drink This Beer At Your Own Peril


Smoked Pork Shoulder (a/k/a Boston Butt)

Today’s task for Big Blue is a whole pork shoulder, also known as a Boston Butt. A nice sized shoulder like this one is about 8 lbs, so it will take a while to smoke and cook.

Nice butt

So why is a pork shoulder called a Boston Butt? Frankly, given the history of St. Louis sports teams vs. Boston sports teams, including two significant, highly tainted, recent events in my lifetime (Super Bowl XXXVI and the 2004 World Series), I am strongly inclined to dislike all things Masshole-related. Apparently, back in the day, pig shoulders were popularly cut in Boston, then shipped out in barrels known as butts. Well, there you go.

I set a nice base of coals at the bottom of the basket in the smoker, about 3/4 of a coal chimney’s worth.

Ready to heat some pork

This was followed by several generous handfuls of soaked cherry wood chunks, left over from last week’s brisket.

Ready to smoke some pork

Before putting the shoulder on the grill, I made a dry rub. This didn’t sit overnight, though I do often like to give smoked meat a night in the fridge with their rub. I was busy cutting cake a the local fish fry.

The rub was basic: 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1/2 cup paprika, 1/4 cup cayenne pepper, 1/4 cup garlic powder, 1/4 cup Lawry’s seasoned salt. Most of my rubs have three components: Sweet, salt, spice. You can have a heavy or light hand on whatever suits your mood that day. I make most on the fly and approximate as I go. Don’t be a slave to rub recipes – make your own and see what you like.

Now give a good butt rub:

Would you like to rub my butt?

I am cooking this thing fat side up. Why? I was chided recently by a far more seasoned BBQer that he always cooks his brisket fat side up so that the fat drippings go over and through the meat, providing more flavor. Fine, fat up for the first few hours.

Butt fat facing up

While this gets started, I check the smoker thermometer. I am about 175 degrees. No problem. In 15 minutes, I will be at a steady 200 degrees, about where I would like to stay for the next 5 hours or so.

In addition to the rub and the cherry wood, I am going to further flavor this butt with a mop. A butt mop? Things are getting strange. A mop is really just a sauce or liquid applied with… a mop. I am using a fancy silicone and metal brush in lieu of an actual mop.

Butt mop

My mop is simple: 1 12 oz. can Budweiser, 2 cups apple cider vinegar, about 2 oz. lemon juice.

At the two hour mark, I give the shoulder a heavy mopping. This turned the crisping rub into a pasty consistency, which I brushed all over the sides of the shoulder.

The easiest mopping job ever

In the photo above, you can see the distinctive Y-shaped bone that makes up the heart of a St. Louis Pork Steak, which is what you get when you cut a shoulder into one inch slices. As spring turns to summer, this blog will devoted heavily to the preparation and consumption of pork steaks. In fact, I enter the World M-Fing Championship of Pork Steaks each year on Memorial Day Saturday. I never win (and neither does my competition partner), or even come close to winning, but it is one of the absolute highlights of the year.

After two hours, I finally flip it fat side down. All this grilling is exhausting. It’s time for a beer. It’s March, right? Close to St. Patrick’s Day? Good.

Smithwick's and butt mop

I’m a big fan of Smithwick’s, something apparently pronounced Shmitt’-icks. I’ve got plenty of Irish in my blood, so this affection is only natural.

Big Blue is doing so well today. I’m feeling like a proud papa. Still holding fast at 200 degrees. I tossed in some more wood and coals, but not too much.

Big Blue holding it down

From here on out, things get easier. Check the temp and rub with mop every 20-30 minutes or so. Mix in some cold beers and you should be ready to go anywhere from 4-6 hours, depending on how hot you get your smoker or how big your shoulder happens to be.

You’re looking for the shoulder to get up to 160 degrees or more. The USDA says 145 for pork, but I prefer to be on the safe side. After 2 hours 45 minutes, I am at about 120 degrees. This is not unexpected. I planned on a 6 hour cook or so, and this is right on target.

Amazingly, even after 6 hours on the smoker, I still only had an internal temperature of 150. It took a full 7 hours to get up to 160. With all of the mopping, the meat remained juicy.

Only the fat was blackened

Instead of shredding it, something I couldn’t really do because I didn’t take the extra time to tenderize the meat, I carved it like a turkey breast for sandwiches.

Too bad you can't smell this!

I took some French bread, a little provelone cheese, some relish, and hot sauce. Yum.

Pork shoulder sammitch

With all of the delays in getting this thing prepared, the kiddos had hot dogs and bratwurst for dinner. That meant tons of leftovers.

An uncommon sight in my house: BBQ leftovers

Tomorrow all this beautiful BBQ shoulder will get some hot sauce / BBQ sauce drizzling and a some time in a skillet before becoming lunch. After trimming all of the fat and cleaning the bone, only a few pounds was left.

My lessons from this will inspire changes in the next shoulder: (1) get a boneless shoulder from the Schnuck’s butchers, (2) give myself at least two more hours cook time than anticipated, (3) do the overnight rub, (4) trim the huge outer fat layer.

In the end, this was a very tasty, labor-intensive project. I would do it again, but with the changes above. Good luck trying this out on your own.

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