Tag Archives: St. Louis

Drink This Beer: 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout

What surprise awaited me at my in-laws’ in their garage fridge but an intriguing Big Beer that some careless brother-in-law had left behind. Behold the 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout.

MOO!

MOO!

As a lover of chocolate milk and beer I didn’t pay for, what was there to lose? Time to crack this bossie and pour.

Not my glassware

Not my glassware

The smell of the beer in the bottle is pure stout without much of a hint of chocolate. When poured into the rising body of the beer, I was met with a thick lustrous head. As the beer breathed, the head settled into a thicker-than-Guiness landscape of froth.

Looking at the beer, it’s 100% non-translucent. The rich dark color shows it’s brownness only at the edges of the curvature of the bottom of the beer glass. The aroma once poured has traveled from stout to chocolatey stout.

Drinking this beer, it’s kind of luxurious. There’s a definite chocolate finish, but it’s purely dark chocolate with zero sweetness. Rather than competing with it, the chocolate flavors complement the strong toasted malt stout flavors.

Texturally, I’m really wowed. There’s almost a true milky sensation of the beer rolling around in the back of my mouth, though it’s definitely a beer. At a mere 5.5%, I could easily handle the Big Beer.

Perfect pairing

Perfect pairing

Unfortunately the beer doesn’t suggest pairing with ice cream, except perhaps chocolate ice cream? Could this be the perfect ice cream float beer? (Unfortunately my in-laws had no ice cream but for some rainbow sherbert… that would have been disgusting.) I was between meals, so no beef either.

How about pairing it with a Cardinals shellacking of the Brewers?

Pow. Down goes Bernie!

Pow. Down goes Bernie!

Super smooth. Easy to drink. Great flavors that are well-balanced. Nice job.

My applause to the people at 4 Hands. They know what they’re doing in dessert beers for sure. I’m always looking for more local beers, and 4 Hands is on my radar going forward. My recommendation for this decadent dessert of a brew: Drink This Beer

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BBQ Joint Review: PM BBQ

A kid’s birthday party in Chesterfield left me with a couple hours to kill. On the way, I noticed  BBQ restaurant: PM BBQ. Instead of watching my child and others bounce around and eat pizza, I decided to give this place a shot. It’s not he’ll be unsupervised, so I can have some fun, too.

At the corner of Edison & Long in the Gumbo Flats flood plain, the crisp new facade of PM BBQ greets you.

So new and clean... is this place legit?

So new and clean… is this place legit?

Even though the place shows no sign of smoke or grime, they have some hardware to boost credibility.

When your ribbons number such that they cover all the colors of the rainbow, you might be doing it right

When your ribbons number such that they cover all the colors of the rainbow, you might be doing it right

Let’s talk briefly about prejudice. One of my preconceptions of high-end BBQ restaurants includes old buildings, usually either (1) extremely old & original location, or (2) very old building that’s been reclaimed. Examples of the former are Fiorella’s Jack Stack in Martin City, MO, Rendezvous in Memphis, or Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City. Examples of the latter include (previously-reviewedHendrick’s in St. Charles, MO or Pappy’s in St. Louis, MO. Each building has character and charm, and none is in a shiny new building.

Well, as history has shown, not all prejudices hold true. PM BBQ is in a nice new building, and it turns out their BBQ is pretty damn good.

Having never been there before, I sought counsel from the kid at the counter. He advised that brisket sandwich is one of the best things on the menu for first time customers. Additionally, I went with beans as a side, since that’s a decent measure of BBQ prowess, and fries because I was in the mood for some french fries.

Brisket lunch platter

Brisket lunch platter

That’s an impressive portion of meat, which is a good thing because I’m hungry and I love brisket.

Before I came to PM BBQ, I phoned a friend who works in Chesterfield for some input. He didn’t answer, but called me back after lunch. The report was that PM BBQ is the best restaurant in the Valley by far, and brisket is the way to go. I have to agree with his assessment.

Behold the care taken in preparing this cow

Behold the care taken in preparing this cow

The brisket is thin sliced, certainly thinner than I can cut mine without a rotary meat slicer. As you can see from the photo, there’s a nice dark pink smoke line and plenty of peppery spices on it. Extremely tender, very very moist. I’m a little bit blown away by this brisket, and I don’t say that lightly. This is an impressive portion of meat, from the quantity to the quality.

It’s clear to me that significant skill went into this brisket, and as an amateur constantly seeking to better my own brisket, I can really appreciate that effort and skill.

I do have one negative comment, though, and it relates to the bun. I got a dry (not stale) yellow bun that overpowers the meat and makes my bites dry, so that you need to add sauce. Adding sauce then masks the flavor and texture of the brisket, so why go to a really good BBQ place in the first place? No bread needed, so you should just discard it if you get the brisket sandwich, or take it home and feed the birds.

Speaking of sauces, there are four on the table.

4x sauce

4x sauce

Carolina, Golden Mustard, Spicy and Sweet. I’ll review each in turn from right to left.

Carolina – Nice and vinegary, as you would expect from a Carolina sauce. Unlike many sauces that call them selves Carolina, this one is legit. Commercial “Carolina” sauces are more regionally-inspired than the genuine article. It’s very thin and nicely spicy, without a hint of tomato. I’m a huge fan, and the yellow bun absorbed it well.

Golden Mustard – Ah, the step brother of Carolina sauce! There are truly two kinds of Carolina sauce, one being the vinegary eastern North Carolina discussed above, and the South Carolina mustard. This is the latter, and it’s powerful. I don’t have much experience with this type of BBQ accompaniment, but PM’s has a distinct flavor that shows inspiration from or relation to the Asian mustard you get in little packets with your General Tso’s chicken. I liked the consistent texture and solid heat profile, but this was not my favorite. That’s more of a testament to the strength of the others and my virginity to this kind of sauce than an indictment on the PM BBQ Golden Mustard sauce. Perhaps a resident of the Palmetto State would be beside himself with pleasure at this sauce.

Spicy – Good, but not spicy. I was waiting for spicy… Perhaps this town has a bastardized BBQ sauce palate because of all the watered down flavorless goop that passes for pork steak sauce. If you drink nothing but Bud Light all the time, then a Schlafly tastes like a malty porter. If you only put skim milk on your raisin bran, then whole tastes like heavy whipping cream. And if you only dunk your meat in a slurry of Maull’s and beer, then normal sauce with a modicum of zest is “spicy”. I know spicy, and this isn’t it. (And, yes, I did swirl the bottle a few times to arouse any sediment and get a consistent sauce pour.)

Sweet – We have a winnah! Excellent sauce, great spice flavors without a very sugary pop. Perfect sauce to put on the brisket, and I used it to clean up my french fries. Wonderful sauce.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tout the beans, which were wonderful. I counted three kinds of beans, and a few nice big chunks of pork with some short ribbons of onion. The beans came out very hot and had a nice twinge of spice, coupled nicely with a very subtle sweetness. The tenderness was spot on, and I enjoyed the thickness of the sauce. I took a bite to sample, then destroyed half of my serving before getting to the brisket.

The french fries were french fries. Thicker than shoestring, they came out piping hot. What can I say… I was just in the mood for some fries. I’m told after the fact that I should have gotten the Sweet Corn Spoonbread. Live and learn. I did find that my fries were oversalted, but it’s hard to complain when the rest of the meal rocked as it did.

With my meal, I knocked back some iced tea. They do have bottled beer in the soda cooler, but it was barely noon…

PM BBQ turned out to be an amazing restaurant with intense credibility based on the strength of the brisket. I’m definitely returning, and not just when I find myself way the hell out in west Chesterfield.

Epilogue

It only took 40 minutes to eat. That gave me tons of time to kill after lunch. I got in my car and looked at the storefront before me. Whaddaya know! The Chesterfield International Tap House is next door to PM BBQ. I think I know how to kill some time.

How many beers do they have on tap? A few…

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

I was thirsty and not in the mood to think, so I ordered a known favorite: Charleville Half Wit Wheat.

Charleville Half-Wit

Charleville Half-Wit

That beer was so good, I went with the bartender’s suggestion of Charleville Nitro ESB.

Charleville Nitro ESB

Charleville Nitro ESB

All this beer eventually sent me to the restroom, where I saw this on the stall partition:

Everything comes full circle

Everything comes full circle

A fitting end to my Chesterfield adventure, among the hundreds of beer and restaurant stickers that plastered the walls. I’ll be back to iTap soon, if not this location then another.

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Cold Calling A Patent Attorney

BBQ & Beer enthusiasts, this one probably isn’t for you (unless you need an IP attorney, in which case you may learn a little about cold-calling).

As you might know, my day job entails lawyering. Not just any lawyering, but the specialty known as Intellectual Property. Because of that, I get phone calls.

(Disclaimer: In case you didn’t already know, nothing here is legal advice. Don’t rely on anything here as legal advice. Remember that seeking legal advice from a BBQ & beer blog = You fail at life.)

The subject of cold calling a lawyer has been very well-addressed by Ken at Popehat (although we get different types of calls since we are in different practice areas). This post is a little more specific to intellectual property law.

I do my best to avoid taking legal work from clients who are going to turn into problems. This is not taught in law school. If Mr. or Mrs. Cold Caller seems like someone who will be a nightmare client or, even worse, a nightmare malpractice plaintiff, then I decline. I prefer to let someone else take on the risk of that type of client – as a solo practitioner with a wife, kids, house, dog, massive student loans, etc., I am exceptionally risk-averse.

Each of these things (I swear this is all true) have been said to me. It’s at that point in the call when I know I will never ever agree to take your case.

Invention worth millions of dollars.” – The red flag of all red flags. I hear this MONTHLY. Any iteration of this is an immediate referral out to the bar referral service. It’s a sign of delusion. If you’re deluded about your invention and the chances of becoming a millionaire, then who are you going to be mad at (read: sue for malpractice) when your seven figure check doesn’t arrive? Me. No thanks.

I fired my last patent attorney.” – This isn’t necessarily a 100% dealbreaker, because maybe he/she truly did a horrible job. I can read the patent file online and see the state of the case, but odds are high you are either a pain in the rear client or the application is FUBAR. Either way, my risk-aversion says I’m not the attorney for you.

I filed my own patent application...” – I’m not much of a gambling man. I play a little poker here and there with friends, and I have been known to wager beer during the fantasy football season. But I’ll bet that your application has been hopelessly screwed up by your own hands. It’s a nearly ironclad rule that no one should ever file their own patent application. When the client is looking for someone to blame down the road, it is either them or you… who do you think they’ll choose?

I filed my own provisional patent application 11 months and 3 weeks ago…” – See above. If you file your own provisional patent application because it was super cheap and super easy, you likely super messed it up. You have 12 months from filing to file a non-provisional based on the (probably toxic) provisional. I might be able to help you out in this small window of time, but the earlier filing date is probably forfeit.

The Lord delivered you to me.” – I got this verbatim, followed by lots of Bible quoting and failing to give me the name of the jackass who provided my number. This one was referred to a large general practice firm that I especially dislike.

The FBI is tracking me because of what I have to tell you.” – Not a lie. This guy called me and then showed up unannounced at the office and scared the holy hell out of the receptionist. He was in pajamas, slippers, a robe, had mussed hair, and was obsessed with organizing the sugar packets and pencils at the front desk. Mr. Managing Partner told me that this guy needed to go, so we sent him to the bar referral service.

[Absolutely non-extendable statutory deadline] was last week, but I still want to file. I need [fraud & unethical conduct].” – Sorry, but I’m not risking my law licenses for you. I got this phone call mid-morning the day after Christmas a couple years ago, and a hard 12 month deadline had passed the prior week. Someone really truly asked me to commit fraud on the Patent Office, and I respectfully declined.

My unpatented invention of [ubiquitous product] was stolen by [huge multinational company] and I want to sue.” – This has happened a few times, and the “inventor” can never prove their case. I’m not a fan of being sanctioned by the Courts for bringing cases like this.

Cold caller wants me to take their patent application pro bono. – Pro bono work is not often associated with intellectual property. Indigents who are facing an unflinching criminal justice system, or a destitute person being evicted… that’s pro bono work. You don’t want to pay for a patent application? Not quite pro bono work.

Cold caller wants me to draft application for free (and pay the filing fee!) for a small slice of their future multimillion dollar company. – No, you sleazeball.

Cold caller will only tell me about the invention after I sign an NDA. – I don’t sign Non-Disclosure Agreements. I am bound by the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, so anything a prospective client tells me in confidence stays in confidence. (With exception. “I’m off to kill / maim someone…” gets reported to the cops.) If I explain that and they insist I sign, then goodbye and good luck.

Cold caller touts their “social network” invention as the “next Facebook” and wants free legal work – Maybe I’ll look back on this with regret, but probably not. Decline.

Cold caller’s invention cures a serious disease through a special diet – Yes, I got this call. I hesitate to say the illness, but I passed this single-claim inventor-drafted application on to someone else who handles this type of stuff. I hope the inventor is correct.

The one I’m waiting for, and it would make my day: Cold caller has invented a perpetual motion machine. – Please, Jebus, deliver this person and their contraption to me.

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Making a 55 Gallon Steel Drum into a BBQ Smoker

So, you’ve been blessed with a big 55 gallon steel drum? You happen to be somewhat handy? You like BBQ? Me, too! Here’s what I did to turn this unsightly industrial refuse into a BBQ smoker, cheerfully named Big Blue.

UPDATE (May 21, 2013) – I discuss using and did use RustOleum High Heat paint on the inside of the drum. A Commenter very helpfully pointed out today that the paint is not intended for use inside BBQ pits, per the RustOleum website’s FAQ section. The technical data sheet says it has a heat resistance of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and mine has never gotten half that hot, but they still say that’s not the product’s intended purpose.  So, obviously don’t do that with your smoker. I’m considering making a new one and literally discarding the old hull after removing the hardware. I will post another update as needed. For now, perhaps just cleaning the heck out of the inside and curing it with food-grade oil and smoke is the best route for you.

UPDATE #2 (August 29, 2013) – I made another one.

Quick disclaimer: If your drum contained anything hazardous or you even remotely think it may have contained anything hazardous, DON’T USE IT TO COOK FOOD. Flat out, if you get some barrel that says Chernobyl or Three Mile Island on it or it mentions any type of remote health hazard and you turn it into a smoker and get sick as hell / grow a few more ears, you are at fault. Not me. Read my general Disclaimer. Don’t be stupid.

On to Big Blue:

Unsightly industrial refuse

I made some loose plans for turning this thing into a functional smoker. Plenty of online research into what other people have done went into my planning. No sense re-inventing the wheel, or smoker.

Detailed smoker plans

In essence, the drum needs to be cleaned out, have some strategically-placed holes drilled into it, be painted, and have some stuff bolted/screwed on.

To get started, I constructed the coal basket. I took two pieces of 12″ x 24″ perforated sheet metal and bolted it into a cylinder. This will rest on a Weber grill grate with four 3″ bolts to act as legs.

Coal basket (left) and base (right)

The coal base will allow two important things: the burnt ashes to fall from the active coals, and the air to surround the burning coals. This gives the fire enough oxygen fuel to burn efficiently without being snuffed out. One simply rests on the other in the center of the base of the smoker.

Ready to smoke some meat!

Now that the guts are assembled, time to get to work on the steel drum. You need a special drill bit that can cut through steel. I did some pricing and these things are incredibly expensive, to the tune of $30-$40 and up. I’m told you can get one for less than $20 at Harbor Freight Tools, but they may only withstand a few holes. Luckily, there is a handy guy in the parish who happened to have one for me to borrow.

Specialty tools cost $$$!

The cool thing about this bit is that you can drill any hole between 1/4″ and 3/4″ in increments of 1/16″.

The drum has a 6′ circumference and I want four baffles around the base, meaning the holes will be about 1.5′ apart. With the coal cage being 4″ off the ground, my baffles will be 6″ off the ground. The baffles will be ball valves with 1/2″ holes.

To make my life easy, I am using all 1/4″, full thread, hex screws. With some consistency, drilling holes, using washers & nuts, etc. is straightforward.

In addition to the baffle holes, I want four similarly equidistant 1/4″ holes near the top of the barrel so that I can run some 2″ hex screws into the barrel. These will hold my 22.5″ Weber kettle food grate. I will put these about 6″ down from the lid. This will give me a good amount of vertical space for making bigger food (like a dressed turkey!).

Finally, the 9th hole will be a 1/2″ hole below the 6″ depth of the food grate holes for my thermometer. I am putting it right below the food grate so that I can tell the temperature within the chamber right near the food.

Once all the holes are drilled, I washed the inside with some diluted CRL. Then I added some vegetable oil and lighter fluid. Fire cleans all.

FIRE BURN!!!

At this point, I’d like to take a moment to add a lawyerly disclaimer. Don’t do this, particularly after drinking beer all day. This is dangerous and the cops / fire department will not be amused.

On the plus side, the fire burned off some arm hair the pesky labels that I could not remove.

After this fiasco cools down, wipe down the inside and outside again. It’s ready to paint.

Clean, but still needs to be sealed

I am painting the inside with a quart of Rustoleum High Heat specialty paint. (Edited May 21, 2013: See UPDATE above… don’t do this!)

Ah, that’s better. First coat of fire paint applied.

The outside will get some regular Rustoleum – my son picked out Royal Blue. In an effort to avoid any Cubs loyalty confusion, I will make a Cardinals stencil out of posterboard and spray paint that design over the blue in another color.

One coat isn’t going to do it…

A second coat of paint is needed to hide the original black undercoat.

Ah, that looks better

I am planning to spray paint on some Cardinal logo decorations from my homemade stencils, or maybe some Billiken stuff in honor of an alma mater.

Once this puppy dries on the outside, it’s time to screw on all of the hardware. Having consistently bought 1/4″ hardware, this is a simple process that takes mere minutes.

Smoker guts inserted…

Thermometer bolted on… needed a washer on the inside to make it snug

Four ball valves to serve as air baffles near the base… each also needed a washer for snugness

Can’t go wrong with a Weber kettle BBQ tool rack

Drop in a hinged 22.5″ grill grate, and put on an old 22.5″ Weber kettle lid, and you’re done!

Voila! Smoker is complete; Big Blue is born. Time to get some rub paste on 11 lbs of brisket for the family gathering tomorrow. Dinner is at 3pm, so I need to get up at 7am. (Pics to follow)

I’m inspired by Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters: “We have the tools; We have the talent!”

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