Archive | November, 2012

This weekend you don’t want to miss this! The Winter Harvest in NYC

28 Nov

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month now since Sandy barraged our city with her high winds and flooding, causing massive damage to several New York City neighborhoods, taking down people’s houses and closing businesses, and bringing our city to a standstill. 

            While most things seem to be getting back to “normal,” there are millions of people who have been affected by the storm and continue to suffer from her devastation. 

            That is why the rescheduled NYC Craft Beer Festival: Winter Harvest, originally to be held on November 10th, but postponed to this Saturday, December 1st, has a new emphasis placed on Sandy Relief.  Hand Crafted Tasting Co., the production company hosting the beer festival is asking people to bring things like batteries, flashlights, work gloves, tools, cleaning supplies, and even holiday gifts, which will then be donated to those who need it most in Breezy Point, Queens—just one of the many NYC neighborhoods hurt by the storm.   

            Additionally, the location of the event has changed as well.  This Saturday’s event is being held at Basketball City, which is at 299 South Street in lower Manhattan, easily accessible via the F train.       

            There will be two sessions on Saturday: The first is from 12:30-4:00 PM and the second is from 6:00-9:30 PM for the VIP/Connoisseur tickets and 1:30-4:00 PM and 7:00-9:30PM for General Admission ticket-holders. The Connoisseur tickets include access to a special designated lounge with rare beers and hors d’oeuvres that will not be available in the General Admission area.  Those tickets are $125, but go up to $135 if you wait until the day of to purchase them.
            VIP ticket holders get an extra hour of sampling for the $75 ticket price ($85 for the day of).  While General Admission tickets will cost you $55 (or $65 if you wait until Saturday).

            All ticket holders will have the option of attending three seminars including one hosted by Chris Gallant, General Manager and Co-Founder of The Bronx Brewery, about starting your own small business. 

There will also be a seminar on pairing food and beer for your holiday parties, hosted by Chef Stephen Durley and Beer Sommelier Hayley Jensen, and a cheese-and-beer-pairing seminar hosted by Aaron Foster of Murray’s Cheeses. 

            And of course, there’s the beer!  There will be approximately 150 Craft Beers from 75 breweries.  If you’ve been to a beer festival before, you know how this works: You get your 4 oz. tasting glass and try as many beers as you can within the time constraints!  Think of it as a beer-drinker’s marathon…   

            I’d recommend trying beers you’ve never had before or visiting a brewery you are unfamiliar with.  Brooklyn Brewery will have their newest Brewmaster’s Reserve, “There Will Be Black,” on tap.  This Winter seasonal (an American black ale) is made with a blend of German and American dark malts and hopped with New Zealand Pacific Gems and Motuekas and well as American Willamette hops.  I haven’t had it yet, but I’m really looking forward to trying this one on Saturday!

            You can compare Blue Point’s White IPA to the same style from Saranac.  Which one do you like better?  And why?  Or you can try Winter seasonals from your favorite breweries like Captain Lawrence and Abita.  There will surely be a style and type of beer for everyone at this Saturday’s festival. 

            And Connoisseurs will have access to specialty beers like Allagash’s Hugh Malone, a Belgian style IPA, Magic Hat’s Graupel, a wheat wine from their small batch “Humdinger” series, and even the ever-popular Goose Island Bourbon County Stout—a favorite this time of year.  If you were considering splurging on a Connoisseur ticket, these beers are just a few reasons why you should!     

            And last but not least, Two Girls One Pint will be all over this Fest!  Jennifer Wood and I will be hanging out at our table, modeling our T-shirts and talking about craft beer, while our own Josh Schwartz, Szoke Schaeffer, and Stevie Ann Nance (from the Sassy Beer Sisters) will be covering the event. 

            We’ve been waiting months for this beer festival and even Sandy couldn’t stop it.  If you are coming on Saturday, please don’t forget to bring an item to donate and stop by our table.  We can’t wait to see you there!

             

Be Thankful for Craft Beer: What to pair with your meal this Thursday

20 Nov

It’s almost turkey time in America and for each of us that may mean something different.

            Maybe you are traveling across the state or across the country to spend the holiday with family and friends.  Maybe you actually prefer to go out to eat on Thanksgiving because the idea of cooking or spending the day with your family is frightening.

            Or maybe you are the one hosting the Thanksgiving feast this year.  Anyone cooking for Thanksgiving, whether it be for a few friends or your entire family (second cousins included), knows they need to do a lot of planning and preparation for their meal ahead of time.  This year, how about introducing some great craft beer to your table to pair with your home-cooked meal?

            If you are a new home-brewer, maybe this is the time to introduce your family and friends to your hobby—Try pairing your homebrew with different dishes at the table and see what works best.  If you don’t homebrew, or don’t think that experimental ale you made last summer would go too great with your mother’s famous stuffing, there are plenty of American craft beers that would be welcome guests at your dinner table.  

            Let’s start with the meal’s centerpiece: The Turkey.  According to Garret Oliver, one of the most well-respected brewmasters (from Brooklyn Brewery) and an expert on pairing beer with food, turkey and a nice Biere de Garde (a French Farmhouse ale) are a match made in Thanksgiving heaven.  Since Biere de Gardes are not exactly commonplace and may be difficult to find locally, a Belgian-style Saison also makes a lovely pairing with the bird.  The differences between the two styles are subtle: a biere de garde tends to be maltier and hence sweeter while most saisons are lighter and crisper with nice spice notes and a floral aroma.  While both are usually spring/summer seasonals for a lot of breweries, both go great with turkey, no matter how you are preparing it.       

When I think of American-brewed, Belgian-style ales I automatically think of Brewery Ommegang.  Any of their complex beers pair so wonderfully with food!  Plus, their brews are easy to find in the NYC area.  I would suggest their Hennepin, a farmhouse saison, whose peppery, fruity notes would go great with the bird.  Ommegang’s Hennepin is certainly a benchmark version of this style that you should not have any difficulty finding in the city.   

Another beer within the same “farmhouse” family is Brooklyn’s Sorachi Ace.  The buttery flavors and lemony aromas imparted by the Japanese-bred Sorachi hop in this singularly-hopped saison would go great with your turkey dinner.

But for a more versatile and catch-all beer that goes great with more than just turkey, Ommegang’s Abbey Ale would pair well with almost everything else at your dinner table this Thanksgiving.  The Belgian-style dubbel is so complex tasting (plums, cherries, toffee, figs) that it begs to be paired with a rich, hearty meal no matter what cuisine you’ll be serving on Thursday.  Try to find a wine as flavorful or dynamic as this beer—your friends and family will certainly be impressed with its versatility!  You may even convince your wine-loving aunts and uncles that beer too, goes great (or even better) with food.   

Now on to the sides.  Mashed potatoes?  How about a brown ale or a porter.  There are several local examples to choose from including Sixpoint’s Brownstone (although I’d pour it into a nice glass and avoid the odd stares you may get from your family when drinking beer from a can) or Brooklyn Brown Ale?  While these two Brooklyn-based breweries both offer fine brown ales that pair wonderfully with hearty fare like mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing, Smuttynose’s Old Brown Dog Ale or their Robust Porter are also great choices.  There are many more great examples out there so pick your favorite but think hearty, dark, and malty beers for your heavier Thanksgiving fare.

Although you may be a fan of hoppier American beer styles like West Coast IPAs (you and your brother love to compare notes on the latest and greatest plate-wreckers), these will not pair as well with your Thanksgiving dinner.  Unless, of course, you are implementing some major spices or going a non-traditional route with your cuisine.  But if you plan on sticking with the standards this season, I wouldn’t suggest pouring Imperial IPAs at your dinner table.  Save those beer styles for another occasion. 

Last but not least, there’s dessert.  At this point in your meal, you are most likely beyond stuffed but if you’re like me, there’s always room for that last course!  And it just happens to be MY favorite part of the meal as I enjoy doing the baking and of course, the eating.  Pecan, Pumpkin or even sweet potato pies go great with a spiced ale or any kind of flavorful stout.   

Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout is an obvious choice, but I’m thinking that western New York’s Southern Tier has some great beers that would impress your guests.  If many of Ommegang’s delcious Belgian-style beers pair well with your dinner, then I would say that any of Southern Tier’s “Blackwater” beers would go just as lovely with dessert.  Their Choklat, Jah-va, Mokah, and Crème Brulee Stouts practically beg to be drunk with sweet treats.  There’s also the fall seasonal favorite, the pumpkin ale, and you know your cousin loves her spiced beers.  Southern Tier’s Pumking is a favorite of many of my family and friends, and if you can manage to find one this week (or you’ve been hoarding some all season), Thanksgiving would be a lovely time to share it.    

Hey, I may even go for (beer) seconds and skip the pie altogether!  And any of these delicious brews will make shopping on Black Friday that much more bearable…

What will YOU be drinking this Thanksgiving?    

 

  

The Queen of Hops! A ladies only homebrew competition…

12 Nov

Part 1: The Competition

  You know by now that we at Two Girls One Pint really love craft beer—that’s just stating the obvious here (Because “Once you go craft you never go back”).  Yup, we love it so much that we wanted to make it ourselves.  It only seems natural!  Good beer is a journey, an exploration—first is the introduction into what makes a good beer—a variety of malted barley or other grains, a great water source, a variety of hops to add bitterness and aroma, and last but not least, the yeast, which depending on what kind is used is the difference between an ale and a lager, or more specifically, a Belgian Pale Ale or a Pilsner.

 

            And since we know that you, our audience, are already beer-savvy and pride yourself on your hop knowledge, the educational posts are for another day—Let’s jump right to the good part!

            We are entering our first homebrew competition!  While attending beer festivals, visiting great craft beer bars and learning about our favorite breweries has been a big part of what we do, once in awhile it’s fun to show off a little bit.  And nothing is better than beer you made yourself at home.

            The Queen of Hops is a female-centered homebrew competition that is being held this Thursday at the Copper Mine Pub in North Arlington, New Jersey, and Two Girls One Pint are representing with their brews!  The hard part is over—now it’s time to celebrate.    

            The competition is sponsored by New Jersey Craft Beer, a Web site and discount program informing New Jersey residents all about their craft beer scene and happenings.  Already a member of their great discount program, when we learned about their home-brewing competition, we just had to be a part of it. 

Celebrating women and beer is one of our favorite past times, and although there are many strong, powerful women in the beer industry (too many to even mention here), beer is still too often considered a guy thing.  Hence NJCB felt the need for this contest, honoring the women who are a part of this growing scene and creating a unique contest for their own homebrew.    

Part 2: The Brews

 So what did we make?  Well, I brewed something I am calling a “Kentucky Cream Ale,” and although this style isn’t widely available commercially, its legend is spread all across the Web  and is mentioned in several brew books, including Ray Mosher’s Radical Brewing.  Considered a “historical style,” it is believed that the beer was consumed by the “laboring class” around Louisville, KY as a substitute for whiskey, because we all know it’s hard to go back to work after we’ve been hitting the bourbon barrel!

 

It is sometimes described as a “Common,” which makes me think of the California Common, or steam beer, an almost extinct American style revived by Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing Co., an ale that is fermented at ale temperatures but with lager yeasts.  I do not really want to refer to my brew as a Common though, because I used ale yeast (American Ale yeast to be exact) and wanted the body and texture to be more along the lines of a Cream Ale, but with two distinct differences: It’s sour and it’s dark!

I did not make an entire 5 gallon batch being that my brew was so experimental, I wanted to do a smaller “test batch” of sort to make it more manageable.  My mash bill consisted of 27% flaked maize (corn) a little less than 70% pale 2-row malt (really just a great base that a brewer can use in a variety of ways to compose the body of their brew), and the other 3% some darker malt (Chocolate and Black Patent) to give it the color I was looking for.  I wanted dark!  Think almost porter dark.

After mashing, I decided to make things weird.  As we said in Kentucky during bartending camp, “Shit got weird.”  So, I decided to sour my mash after I had just spent an entire hour “making love to it,” (aka stirring the mash in the pot—I like to make it sound more interesting).

I wanted this beer to be sour—not gueze sour or Rodenbach sour, but still have that nice tang like maybe somebody put a sour patch kid in your beer.  Why would someone do that?  I don’t know: Because they’re a jerk?

I could’ve done this by adding lactic acid or even our popular friend, Brettamyces, but I really didn’t feel like buying all new equipment after this “experiment” (Brett can really funk up your stuff, and I have no interest in creating an entire line of sour beers).  So I did what they do in Kentucky when they make that good ‘ole bourbon:  I made a sour mash.

While the sour mashes used to create bourbon are at least 51% corn, a beer with that much of an adjunct is not going to be very tasty.  After researching the process I was a bit worried:  This could go horribly wrong. 

The basics?  I used the base of a Crockpot warmer (because every good girl has a Crockpot) and kept it on “warm,” while I sat my entire brew kettle with the mash on top.  I added a few ounces of unspent grain (to get the bacteria going) and covered the surface with Saran wrap.  Then I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.  This could go horribly wrong. 

The key was to keep it at between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, with 110 being the goal.  Too low, and the bacteria wouldn’t grow.  Too high, and the bacteria would just die off.  I wanted some degree of sourness but also feared that the bacteria I created would be the “bad” kind.  And then no one would want to drink this beer!

After souring for about 24 hours, I believed it was ready (doing the whole finger test, because how else would I know?).  I sparged the grains and then boiled my wort, adding a small amount of Cluster hops at the beginning of my boil and another few ounces after 30 minutes.  And then it was into the carboy with the yeast to do its job—to make my awesome beer.   

I bottled after 2 weeks and after letting that carbonate in its vessel (I used honey as my fermentable sugar because I like to be natural) for another two weeks, I had beer.  My homebrew for the Queen of Hops to be exact. 

So how does it taste?  While I think it’s fantastic, but I’m a bit bias.  It turned out exactly how I wanted it to:  A dark, soured Cream Ale.  And at about 5% ABV, you can still drink one of these and go back to work—no getting sloshed on whiskey here!

Jennifer Wood, the producer and creator of Two Girls One Pint, brewed a Saison with lavender.  While I wasn’t there when she created the brew, she’s posted some great pictures on our Facebook page (please “Like Us”) showing her own brewing process. 

Ladies, you have some healthy competition here!  We’ll see what the judges have to say on Thursday.

 

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There’s no omitting taste with this gluten-free brew!

4 Nov

If my doctor told me I had to stop drinking beer due to a medical condition, I’d probably cry.  I would most likely throw a hissy-fit and it would definitely have an enormous impact on my lifestyle in addition to forcing me to adapt to an entirely new diet.  And that’s really no fun. 

Luckily, I do not have an allergy that would force me to stop drinking beer.  But millions of Americans do, and gluten-free diets are becoming more commonplace as celiac sufferers and those with a gluten-intolerance or sensitivity have to adapt to a whole new diet—one that omits any product that contains wheat, barely and rye.  For those with this restriction, that often means giving up some of their favorite foods—pasta, pizza, cupcakes…and of course, for many, beer. 

The selection of gluten-free beers on the market has grown immensely over the past few years and craft brewers across the country have been offering some gluten-free options, usually using sorghum, buckwheat, quinoa and even rice, as a substitute for malted barley or wheat.  The movement is so popular that even Anhueser-Busch InBev has a beer option for the celiac-sufferers—Redbridge.  There are also many more craft options out there created by microbreweries. 

But commercially, nobody has created a beer using the traditional four ingredients—malted barley, water, yeast and hops—that is, until Widmer Brothers Brewing based out of Portland, Ore., released their option earlier this year, a brand appropriately named “Omission.”

Sure, those avoiding gluten can always opt to drink hard cider—I know many of my regulars at the bar that live gluten-free often opt for this—but that doesn’t satiate the craving for a hoppy, delicious, well-crafted brew.    

Until now.  And for those who have tasted the gluten-free beers out there, whether out of curiosity or because of dietary restrictions know that there’s just something missing.  Most don’t really taste like beer.    

The people over at Widmer Bros have recognized this lack of a satisfying gluten-free beer and made it their mission (pun intended) to create a brew that tasted, well, like a “regular” beer.  And they even went out of their way to create two different but recognizable and satisfying styles—a sessionable, light blonde, almost German (Helles)-style lager and a hoppy, amber-colored American pale ale, an essential west-coast style, brewed with the distinctive aroma of Cascade and Citra hops.  We were lucky enough to taste both last week at Swine in the West VIllage, where representatives of the brewery were present. 

 Both options are highly approachable.  And just like choosing a candidate to vote for in this upcoming election, some of us prefer a light, easy drinking lager while some of us may prefer a more bold, classic-style pale ale—we live in America and we have the freedom to choose!  Even if we can’t have gluten!  Yeah!

And they’re both really good.  Coming from a person who is blessed to not have celiac or any sensitivity to gluten, both styles satisfied my need for a well-crafted, easy drinking beer.  If handed one blindly without the knowledge of its “secret,” I would still think, “Hey…yeah…this is a great beer.”

So how did Widmer Bros create a gluten-free beer using barley?  Isn’t barley the celiac’s enemy?  Well, that answer is purely scientific—they extracted the protein from their beer using a handy little enzyme called Brewer’s Clarex that breweries have been using for years in order to clarify their beer.  It seems that this handy enzyme also has the ability to extract that nasty gluten protein that celiacs and those with a sensitivity have come to loathe so much.  Both brews actually contain both Caramel and Pale malts—no gluten-free substitutes here.    

And to prove that it’s not a farce, Widmer Brothers tests every batch: Both at the brewery, with their own staff of scientists, and through the aid of an independent lab, using the R5 Competitive ELISA test.  This specific test insures that the detectable presence of gluten measures below the standard of 20 ppm (parts per million) or less so that it can be called “gluten-free.”  Still not convinced?  Every bottle of Omission beer contains a date on the label that when entered on Omissiontest.com reveals a photocopied result of the beer’s test with ELISA.  There’s your revelation, right there—this beer you’re drinking has an almost untraceable amount of gluten.

The best is the explanation for the creation of this beer–not just because of the basic lack of decent and drinkable gluten-free brews—that’s self-explanatory.  But for Widmer Brothers the reason was much more personal—Both the CEO of the Craft Brew Alliance, Terry Michaelson, and the wife of Widmer Bros’ brewmaster, Joe Casey, have been unable to drink beer for many years due to their own gluten-intolerance:  This made the quest to create a GF beer brewed with traditional ingredients even more of an important issue and a project that took years to perfect.      

And as more and more people are living gluten-free, the quest for a decent brew that meets their dietary restrictions will grow.  My regular at the bar who shuns beer festivals and jealously eyes beer-drinkers at the bar?  She can now drink this.  No longer restricted to ciders, now everyone (of age) can enjoy a decent brew thanks to Widmer Brothers.  Look for Omission at your favorite craft beer bar or store.  Mission complete.