Bored? Oh, Try this Wine

Chateau_L'Eglise_Saget_2014_My_BlogOn the docket:  Chateau L’ Eglise Saget 2014 Bordeaux 750mL (60% Merlot / 40% Cabernet Sauvignon)

Poured into:  stemless aeration glass

S:    A pink meniscus above a garnet/currant body.  Deep color, inviting.

A:  Dried red cherry, a touch of mineral-earth and vanilla.

T:  Much of the aroma carries over into the palate with an addition of a delicate tartness reminiscent of cranberries.  Darker note of plum.

F:  While the merlot provides the fruit, there no bones about it- the cabernet brings the structure.  Smooth, refined tannins carry over into a medium-long finish.  The body has some weight on the palate, but it’s not overbearing.  Medium.

O:  Simple, elegant, smooth and luxurious.  This is a fine example of how just two varietals blended in the right ratio can please any wine enthusiast.

Suggested food pairing:  Mushroom Swiss burger, white cheddar, chicken liver (for the brave)

A Reader Replied! Awesome!

A few days ago, a reader of my blog replied to one of my more recent posts, the one with the provocative title.  The reader sent me a link to an article that discussed how people in the beer world (and other arenas) are appropriating the phrase “black lives matter.”  The reader also explained that while they routinely enjoy my content, they felt uneasy about my choice of titles.  It gave me pause, and I understand and acknowledge their opinion.  This is why I’m a little slow in posting.  However, I will not be changing the title of my blog post.  What I will do however, is explain my views of the preciousness of life, briefly.

It’s not often that I delve into political issues on this blog.  Afterall, it’s about beer.  But, I do want to go on the record and detail my stance on a few things.

All lives matter:  regardless of color, creed, religion, race, age, and lifestyle preference- unless that preference happens to be in the pursuit of causing carnage, fear, and mass casualty.  At that point, I feel your life is forfeit.  On the flip-side of the spectrum, I wholeheartedly believe that unborn lives matter.  My belief that unborn life matters is so strong that this first determines whom I vote for in races for public office.

So, why exactly would I title what most people consider a trivial subject (beer) with such a lightning-rod of a phrase?

Actual black lagers, properly named schwarzbiers, are a German style that receives little consideration outside the world of craft aficionados (and inside the world of craft aficionados for that matter).  They’re not usually brewed with weird ingredients, barrel-aged, or possess double-digit abv.  But, when properly executed, they are flavorful, sessionable, unique beers that show a) dark doesn’t have to mean heavy AND b) all lagers aren’t boring, pale, rice/corn laden cans of swill.  For this reason, I wanted people to sit up and take notice of one of my favorite styles.

Perhaps this attitude is changing, albeit slowly.  A week ago I got an email message that Barley Creek Brewing took first place for their Angler in the black lager category at the United States Beer Tasting Championship.  For those of you lucky enough to have tasted it, you understand why.

The attitude toward black lagers may also be changing in the macro-beer world as well.  Not long ago Sapporo put out a black lager to add to their lighter lager options.  Pleasantly surprised this happened, I bought can consumed a few can just satisfy my curiosity.  Smooth, crisp, and easy to drink, I must say.

Appreciate lagers and share my belief that all life matters?  Let me know.  Your comments will be moderated to keep things friendly.

Oh, have you not Herd? It was my understanding that everyone had Herd!

Bolero_The_Herd_My_BlogOn the docket:  Bolero Snort’s IV Anniversay, The Herd 750mL

Poured into:  Dogfish Head craft goblet with enough vigor to produce a head, but as not to disturb the yeast from the bottom of the bottle.

Sight:  A deeply gingerbread body fills the glass with a quick-forming khaki head.  As dark as it is, there’s nice evidence of carbonation, tiny, delicate bubbles well up from the base.  A few seconds later, the head dissipates to a tightly hugging ring and a storm-front mass of suds on top.  Further insepction reveals a lovely reddish hue to the body.  No lacing, but hey, it’s a 10.5% abv drink.  Taking a look at the bottle, one can observe a ring of  yeast sediment on the bottom.

Aroma:  Intense, sweet malt.  Almost rootbeer-like spicy sweetness.  Just a fleeting sense of vanilla and gentle perfume of esters and alcohol.  Molasses.  Dark purple fruit note.  Yep, the plums are there.  No hop presence.

Taste:  Much of the aroma follows through to the palate.  Malt and sugar sweetness, on the fuller side of the style.  Pleasant warmth from alcohol which keeps it from becoming too sweet.  The plum note manifests as part of a “fruitcake” sort of fruitiness, along with the yeast.

Mouthfeel:  Highly carbonated, with very fine bubbles, not sharp and biting.  Finish is moderately dry with a slight bitterness, bringing another means of balance.  Medium-full body.

Overall:  More abbey-style than Trappist, a nice New-World interpretation.  This is not your father’s Chimay.  A great way to celebrate four years… at least that’s what I herd.

Suggested food pairing(s):Mongoian beef and broccoli, port-wine cheese, filet, raspberry chocolate cheesecake

Beer Dinners, and Why They’re Awesome

If you’ve ever attended a well-run beer dinner, you know the treat it is– the thoughtful pairing of beer and food.  I attended one not too long ago, featuring an extensive list of Firestone Walker’s portfolio, paired with wonderful dishes, ranging from Bavarian pretzels (with Pivo Pils) to pork belly (with Double Jack).

Beer and food pairing is an excellent creative exercise, and one Garrett Oliver goes to explain at great lengths in his book, The Brewmaster’s Table.  This is also a valuable concept to understand when studying for and taking your Cicerone exam.

For those of you who follow me and are local to Warren County, NJ, I’ll let you in on a little secret:  I’m brewing up a celebration of sorts, a beer dinner that will feature the three Hackettstown breweries all under one roof.  That’s right, Czig Meister, Man Skirt, and Jersey Girl will share the spotlight one night in the semi-near future at a location I’ll disclose as I get further along in the process.

Excited?  I know I am.

Black Lagers Matter: 100th Blog Post!

To my devoted fans, my new fans, and future fans, welcome to my 100th blog post.  You didn’t think I’d make it here, did you?  Well, I’m happy to say, the time has arrived.  In honor of such a momentous occasion (in my head at least), I felt it only right and proper to do a beer review.  This one is partially in honor of my heritage, my fondness for dark beer, and of course, because my freakin’ awesome wife bought not just the beer, but the container in which this marvelous libation dwells (though soon, it will have a new home, in my stomach).  As her Valentine’s gift to me, she bought me a ceramic, 64 ounce growler from Barley Creek Brewing Co. and filled it with one of their year-round favorites of mine:  Angler Black Lager.  Below is the review:

barley_creek_angler_black_lager

Angler Black Lager

On the docket:  Barley Creek Brewing Co.’s Angler Black Lager

Growler filled:  2/13/17

Poured into:  Lone Eagle Brewing Co. craft glass

Sight:  From a long way off, you’d swear the glass held the darkest stout in the world.  But come closer.  A more attentive inspection screams walnut hardwood or if you want to get esoteric, bistre (sooty brown) with reddish-orange highlights.  The head, though short lived is a quick-forming beige cap.  Lacing is braille-like and delicate.  The cap recedes into a swirl of suds and a small conclave of bubbles on one side of the glass.  The body is dark enough to prohibit the detection of bubbles rising to the surface.

Aroma:  Malt is definitely the star here, as this beer yields an aroma of darkish baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder.  There’s a slight suggestion of roasted coffee, and an earthiness that reminds me of either tobacco or leather.  Either is fine.

Taste:  Closely mirroring the aroma, is a malt-driven brew.  Chocolate, sweetish malt and a hint of brown or pumpernickel bread.  The slightest trace of caramel.  There’s a roundness here that’s appealing.  Only on the end do the hops make an appearance in the bitter balance to all the smooth, dark malt flavors.

Mouthfeel:  The commonly held misconception is that dark beers are heavy.  Well, some are.  But this?  This is light, elegant, and dances on the tongue, a medium- on the body.  Fine carbonation.  Crisp, smooth finish– just like a lager should have.

Overall:  Is it an imperial, barrel aged stout with vanilla, coffee, cocoa nibs, and blessed by a priest?  NO.  This is a fine example of a beer style that receives way too little attention in the beer world:  Schwarzbier.  For those that love lagers, for those that love German beer, for those that love dark beer, for those that love session-able beer (5.2% abv), this beer is for all of you.

Suggested food pairing(s):  banana chocolate-chip pancakes (beer with breakfast anyone?!), coffee-encrusted flank steak, smoked wurst, sharp English or Irish cheddar, chocolate-pecan terrine

 

 

Newly Discovered Blogs Worth Reading

After searching for new reading material on WordPress, I stumbled across some engaging authors worth checking out.  In no particular order:

Adventures in Whiskey

Vines and Vices

California Globetrotter

Tune in next time for my 100th post.  Can you believe it?  I’ve outlasted some of my favorite tv shows.

Beer: The Most Romantic Drink of All

That high-stress relationship holiday is around the corner, and I’m sure florists, Hallmark, restaurants, and M&M Mars are poised to make a killing.  Yes, I’m referring to Valentine’s Day.  Inspired by Ms. Puckette’s article over here on her site, I feel wine is pretty well covered.  My focus will be on my first love, beer, and its ability to pair well with chocolate.

Right out of the gate, beer already has an edge over (most) wine when pairing with food- its carbonation.  Capable of cutting through rich, thick flavors and dense fat, those bubbles in beer act as a palette-cleanser.

Couple this cleansing ability with similar flavors found in chocolate, and beer is effective, versatile, and quite the complimentary beverage to chocolate.  Dark, roasty stouts and porters may contain black patent and/or chocolate specialty malts, providing flavor.  Some brewers even add chocolate itself into the recipe, as is the case with Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout made with organic cocoa.  Another option for pairing is a milk stout, such as Left Hand’s Nitro.  It’s brewed with lactose (milk sugar) which does not ferment out, leaving the beer a touch sweet.  Try milk stouts with chocolate high in cacao, to counter and soften the bitterness.

beer_and_chocolate

For those fans of spirits, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout or porter will provide a layer of depth and complexity to your chocolate pairing.  Bourbon barrels impart a dose of vanilla and caramel, plus a dryness due to the oak compounds.  Pair these brews with quality milk chocolate and experience something akin to a Milky Way Bar.

Something commonly paired with chocolate is fruit.  Combined with either white or traditional chocolate, fruit beers make excellent “chocolate-covered strawberry/cherry/raspberry” experiences.  A beer such as Founders Rübæus, or its big brother, Blushing Monk, are made with raspberry puree.  Raspberries also provide a hint of tartness, adding a balance to the rich, creaminess of chocolate.  Or, you could skip the fruit AND the chocolate, and blend a chocolate and fruit beer together, a la Samuel Smith’s strawberry and chocolate.

For the truly adventurous, perhaps something esoteric is in order.  The few of us who enjoy those whack-and-unwrap chocolate oranges, try Sierra Nevada’s Side Car (or any pale ale with hops that impart an orange flavor to the beer) with some creamy milk chocolate.

I know me and my wife will find some sort of awesome combination to celebrate this year’s romantic holiday.