Tag: great lakes

BBQ Beers

I’ve been known to fire up the grill on Christmas, so for me, outdoor cooking knows no seasonal bounds. Still, summertime grilling, and drinking, are institutions, at least in newspaper food sections. And so I wrote about them.

First, for Bon Appetit, I subjected a friend’s dinner party to the spectacle of beer-can chicken. When I say use indirect heat, I mean it. Beer will bubble out of the bird, and all over the coals. One trip to the fridge, and your chicken’s on fire. It’s a spectacle, like I said.

But what to drink while aimlessly poking the grill? I stocked the Wall Street Journal‘s ice bucket with lighter fare (a Dortmunder, a pale, a saison), the all-rounder Brooklyn Brown, and, for those whose burger is naked without bacon, a smoky rauchbier. I even got to drink some Hennepin on camera while Skyping into the Journal‘s afternoon news show. When you’re serving beer-can chicken, lingcod, steak, sea urchin, and roasted prince mushrooms, it’s good to stock a versatile bar.

The Blend Is Near

Nothing is sacred, not even beer. Prove it: order a pint of the latest over-hopped, over-hyped IPA, down half, and top it off with a simple pale. See? It gets better.

I wrote about mixing beer in this month’s GQ, but it’s been going on for ages. In eighteenth-century England, savvy drinkers ordered half-and-halfs or three threads: old, stale beer livened up with some fresh from the brewery. (Porter started out as one of these mixes.) Flemish brewers carbonate their gueuze the same way, adding a bit of new beer to a flat batch of sour lambic to wake up the old yeast. Beer aged in barrels is almost always blended because each cask ferments a little differently. When a smoked beer by Boulder’s Avery Brewing Company lost its edge after sitting too long in a rum barrel, they made an extra-smoky batch to mix it with. Germans—lest you think them Reinheitsgebot-thumping purists—mix their beers with Coke and banana nectar.

Beer cocktails are getting common, but beer blends are still underground. “We hide our blends on the other side of the menu,” Avery’s taproom manager Phil Vaughn says. “Not recommended, but not discouraged,” according to North Coast’s vice president Doug Moody. “Don’t tell the brewers,” warns an anonymous source at Cleveland’s Great Lakes. Fine, we get it: Craft beer is perfect straight up, but a little alchemy can go a long way.

Some blends to try:

Belgian Strong Golden + Pilsner
Wheat + Scotch Ale (or just Scotch)
IPA + English Pale Ale
Russian Stout + Pale Ale
Saison + Mescal
IPA + Rye Whiskey
Wheat + Lemonade
Brown Ale + Port
IPA + Espresso (We learned about this at Founders in Grand Rapids, where our Midwestern favorite MadCap Coffee made just such a blend.)

SF Beer Week: Opening Gala

The Yerba Buena center was packed. The line to taste Russian River‘s very rare and very hoppy Pliny the Younger started at one wall and disappeared into the crowd, out of sight. It was almost as long as the line to the men’s room, where a guy wearing sunglasses declared, “Pliny is bullshit.” There was no line for the women’s room.

We had a good rye saison from Devil’s Canyon—the peppery saison yeast worked well with the rye’s natural spice—and a weird mugwort beer from Moonlight. It tasted a little like thyme, with a hint o’ mint at the end.

California is supposed to be laid back, but there was a lot of posturing going on, beers trying to out-sour, or out-hop each other. Lagunitas talked up their special release, Fusion: 280 IBUs, dry-hopped with four pounds of citras per barrel. It was OK; their stout was better. In the midst of the fray, I met a guy wearing a Great Lakes Brewing Company t-shirt and talked to him a little bit about Cleveland. He said Great Lakes’ beer is great, but he loves them even more because their food is just as good. That made me feel better. He reminded me of Magnolia Brewpub, home to an excellent pork sandwich and straight-forward, British beer, so we went there. They were pouring Pride of Branthill, a so-called “double ESB,” which sounds like big talk, but it tasted mild, full, and bready. As strong as the beer was, it was a nice respite from the more overdone offerings on tap.

A few tables poured “session beers,” lighter and easier to drink than their soured or dry-hopped cousins. There were no lines to try session beers. Anderson Valley‘s Wee Geech was delicious.

True relief came from North Coast, who were passing out Underbergs with each sip of bourbon-barrel-aged Old Rasputin. I predict a hangover-free morning.