Monthly Archives: October 2013

Brew Tasting

IMG_2834

We had friends over to watch game 3 of the World Series and I thought it would be fun to have Brats, spaetzle, and a beer tasting. Roger explored the beer isle at our local Whole Food store and brought home some unique (to us) beverages and one of we had tried before and loved. Here’s the lineup:

  1. Trappistes Rochefort 8
  2. Trappistes Rochefort 10
  3. Hofbrau Oktoberfest
  4. Inferno – The Lost Abbey
  5. Petrus Oud Bruin
  6. Westmalle Trappist Ale
  7. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

IMG_2837

We all chimed in with tasting notes and when I began researching each individual beverage on my favorite website: beeradvocate.com, I couldn’t believe how on the money we were with some of our comments. I think we might have a future as professional beer tasters. Sounds to me like the PERFECT job!

Beer Advocate is an amazing resource that provides tasting notes, pairing suggestions, and oodles of information about the style, taste, and complexity of a particular beer. I highly suggest – if you’re a beer lover – that you go online and check them out. As you can imagine, some beer we loved and some beer we hated…in spite of the Beer Advocate Score (from here on out referred to as the BAS).

Since Trappist Rochefort has such a rich history, let’s begin with a little background story. This beer is brewed within the walls of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy (in the country of Belgium) in the town of Rochefort. The water used for brewing comes from a well within the monastery and they have been brewing beer here since the 16th century!! How cool is that? There are about 15 monks who reside within the Abbey and they brew the beer to support their monastery and to provide for their charitable work. I’m really disappointed now that we didn’t make an effort to see check this town/monastery out when we were recently in Belgium. Looks like we’ll have to make another trip! Here’s a photo of the inside of the monastery courtesy of Wikipedia:

800px-8250_Church_of_Abbaye_Notre-Dame_de_Saint-Remy_Rochefort_2007_Luca_GaluzziBefore we begin, true confession time: we only have Pilsner glasses. A professional taster would demand that we use the appropriate glass to allow the beer to come to its full potential, just as a wine connoisseur would; however, we’re just don’t have the cabinet space (pathetic excuse, I know). When I was much younger, I was a bartender at a place called the Blackthorne Tavern in Easton MA (across from Stonehill College). The guys who owned this place knew their beer and their cellar was crammed with all kinds of exotic beer. It was mandatory that you poured a pint into the proper glass, or else. They were sticklers about this. Sadly, the Blackthorne is no more. I really respected what those guys were trying to accomplish: create an authentic pub environment (right down to their amazing food) in a small town. They were jammed every night that I worked there, so I’m not sure what happened. At the end of the night we would all sit around and sample the enormous varieties of beer. Wicked nice guys. Anyway, I digress, yet again. Let’s get back to the tasting.

Trappist Rochefort 8, Strong Belgian Dark Ale with 9.20% ABV with a BAS of 96 (out of a 100).
Trappist Rochefort 8, Belgian Dark Ale with 9.20% ABV with a BAS of 96 (out of a 100).
Trappist Rochefort 10, Quadrupel (Quad) Style Ale
Trappist Rochefort 10, Quadrupel (Quad) Style Dark Ale with a whopping 11.30% ABV (!) and a BAS of 100 (!!!!)
Side-by-side comparison.
Side-by-side comparison. You can see that 10 is darker than 8.

Beer Advocate says lots of great things about Rochefort 8 but here’s the condensed version: muddy brown in appearance with a fruity and sweet taste. They suggest pairing  this Ale with barbecue, a sharp, blue or pungent cheese, beef, and grilled meats. We noted that it was reddish brown, smooth, rich, smoky, subtly sweet, and filling. We liked it.

Beer Advocate raved about Rochefort 10. It’s a Quad style, which means it’s a strong Belgian Ale and typically with dark reds, browns, and garnet hues, and is full bodied, rich, and malty. It pairs well with buttery cheeses (blue, brie, cheddar, swiss, etc.), game, beef, and smoked meat. Our notes described it as maltier, richer, more alcohol, denser, sweeter than 8, and hints of caramel. This was loved by all. We unanimously ranked #10 as our absolute favorite.

Hofbrau Oktoberfest.
Hofbrau Oktoberfest, Marzen/Oktoberfest style, 6.30% ABV, and a BAS of 78.

Beer Advocate called this full-bodied, rich, toasty, and typically dark copper in color. The Marzen/Oktoberfest style means that is a typical beer found at the Munich Ocktoberfest (on my bucket list!). They suggest pairing it with meat, game, salmon, or using it as an apertif. Our notes list it as having a “crispy” flavor and that it was light bodied. It was definitely not “dark copper color”, in contrast to the readily available and delicious Sam Adams Oktoberfest. For our tasting, the Hofbrau came across as an average beer. It would be spectacular ice-cold accompanied by a Cape Cod Cafe pepperoni pizza, or on a hot summer afternoon, if you ask me.

Inferno Ale - The Lost Abbey, 9.0% ABV, and BAS of 96
Inferno Ale – The Lost Abbey, 9.0% ABV, and BAS of 96

There was not a lot written about this ale on Beer Advocate. That being said, there sure was a lot written on the label! Someone has written stanzas containing material reminiscent of Dante’s disturbing Inferno. It was a little creepy…this would make a great Halloween beer. We had made notes of it being citrusy, cloudy, sweet, and typical of a wheat beer.  It reminded me of Blue Moon. Beer Advocate didn’t have many notes other than food pairings, which were meat, game, salmon, and to serve as an apertif.

Petrus Oud Bruin
Petrus Oud Bruin, Flanders and Bruin style, 5.50% ABV, and a BAS of 83.

Okay, there was a mutual distaste/dislike on this one. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, but we classified it as sour, tangy, tart, flavors of cherry, and I added “grape popsicle.” It really did taste like a grape popsicle to me. Anyway, this Belgian beer is fermented in the same way as a Lambic beer (hence, the fruitiness) and we found it wanting. Although, to be fair to Petrus Oud Bruin, we weren’t expecting a Lambic beer, so if we knew ahead of time maybe we wouldn’t ranked it so unfavorably? The Beer Advocate says that this beer can be extremely varied and is often characterized by a slight vinegar or lactic sourness, spiciness, and can be sweet. They suggest pairing it with cheese (I suggest goat cheese), chocolate, and grilled meat. Make sure if you serve this, your guests know what they’re getting or they just might spit it on the floor.

Westmalle Trappist Ale Dubbel,
Westmalle Trappist Ale. Style is Dubbel, 7.0 ABV, and BAS is 93

I bet you’ll never guess where this beer is brewed….that’s right: Belgium!! Next time we host one of these fun tastings, I think we’ll have to make a concerted effort to branch out to more countries. But, what can you do when Belgium makes so much damn good beer? You’re probably thinking, as was I, that this beer is also brewed in a monastery because it has the word Trappist in it’s name. Well, that makes us both wrong. It’s made in a Dubbel style, which means that there is expressive carbonation, it’s malty with a mild hop bitterness, less fruitiness, and dark ale flavors may be present. It sometimes has a caramel flavor from the use of crystal malt or dark candy sugar. We had noted “lots of bubbles,” sweet note, and a classic dark beer.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout, 5.20% ABV, and a BAS of 91
Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Style is Milk/Stout, 5.20% ABV, and a BAS of 91

Generally speaking, none of us at the tasting are dessert people (we’re more of a savory group). We have discovered we definitely aren’t into watery chocolate milk containing  carbonation. Clearly, we must be wrong again since Beer Advocate gave it 91 out of 100, but to each his own. This stout is from the UK and it’s style leaves it with a large amount of dextrins and unfermented sugars. This gives it a sweetness and heavy body, hence, the milk reference. Not a fan of drinking it on its own, but it might be okay in a dessert concoction. Say, over an incredible ice-cream? Yeah, I think that would work.

So, tonight is game 6 and I’m feeling like a cat on a hot-tin roof right now! If Boston wins, it will be the first time winning a series title at home since 1918!! Babe Ruth was playing then. In honor of our Sox, we’re having Fenway Franks for dinner tonight. I went out to our freezer in the garage and grabbed a package REAL hot dog buns  I order from a specialty store online. The “hot dog buns” (and I use that term loosely) here in CA are just awful for dogs. There’s wwwaaaayyy too much bread…they look like mini-sub rolls. All wrong.

Now that's dog! The only thing left to do is squirt on the Gulden's spicy brown mustard and chopped onion.
Now that’s a dog! The only thing left to do is squirt on the Gulden’s spicy brown mustard and chopped onion.
Famous Foods is the online provider I buy my buns from.
Famous Foods is the online provider I buy my buns from.

Go RED SOX!!!!!

April

Brew Tasting

 

IMG_2834We had friends over to watch game 3 of the World Series and I thought it would be fun to have Brats, spaetzle, and a beer tasting. Roger explored the beer isle at our local Whole Food store and brought home some unique (to us) beverages and one of we had tried before and loved. Here’s the lineup:

  1. Trappistes Rochefort 8
  2. Trappistes Rochefort 10
  3. Hofbrau Oktoberfest
  4. Inferno – The Lost Abbey
  5. Petrus Oud Bruin
  6. Westmalle Trappist Ale
  7. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

IMG_2837

We all chimed in with tasting notes and when I began researching each individual beverage on my favorite website: beeradvocate.com, I couldn’t believe how on the money we were with some of our comments. I think we might have a future as professional beer tasters. Sounds to me like the PERFECT job!

Beer Advocate is an amazing resource that provides tasting notes, pairing suggestions, and oodles of information about the style, taste, and complexity of a particular beer. I highly suggest – if you’re a beer lover – that you go online and check them out. As you can imagine, some beer we loved and some beer we hated…in spite of the Beer Advocate Score (from here on out referred to as the BAS).

Since Trappist Rochefort has such a rich history, let’s begin with a little background story. This beer is brewed within the walls of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Remy (in the country of Belgium) in the town of Rochefort. The water used for brewing comes from a well within the monastery and they have been brewing beer here since the 16th century!! How cool is that? There are about 15 monks who reside within the Abbey and they brew the beer to support their monastery and to provide for their charitable work. I’m really disappointed now that we didn’t make an effort to see check this town/monastery out when we were recently in Belgium. Looks like we’ll have to make another trip! Here’s a photo of the inside of the monastery courtesy of Wikipedia:

800px-8250_Church_of_Abbaye_Notre-Dame_de_Saint-Remy_Rochefort_2007_Luca_GaluzziBefore we begin, true confession time: we only have Pilsner glasses. A professional taster would demand that we use the appropriate glass to allow the beer to come to its full potential, just as a wine connoisseur would; however, we’re just don’t have the cabinet space (pathetic excuse, I know). When I was much younger, I was a bartender at a place called the Blackthorne Tavern in Easton MA (across from Stonehill College). The guys who owned this place knew their beer and their cellar was crammed with all kinds of exotic beer. It was mandatory that you poured a pint into the proper glass, or else. They were sticklers about this. Sadly, the Blackthorne is no more. I really respected what those guys were trying to accomplish: create an authentic pub environment (right down to their amazing food) in a small town. They were jammed every night that I worked there, so I’m not sure what happened. At the end of the night we would all sit around and sample the enormous varieties of beer. Wicked nice guys. Anyway, I digress, yet again. Let’s get back to the tasting.

Trappist Rochefort 8, Strong Belgian Dark Ale with 9.20% ABV with a BAS of 96 (out of a 100).

Trappist Rochefort 8, Belgian Dark Ale with 9.20% ABV with a BAS of 96 (out of a 100).

Trappist Rochefort 10, Quadrupel (Quad) Style Ale

Trappist Rochefort 10, Quadrupel (Quad) Style Dark Ale with a whopping 11.30% ABV (!) and a BAS of 100 (!!!!)

Side-by-side comparison.

Side-by-side comparison. You can see that 10 is darker than 8.

Beer Advocate says lots of great things about Rochefort 8 but here’s the condensed version: muddy brown in appearance with a fruity and sweet taste. They suggest pairing  this Ale with barbecue, a sharp, blue or pungent cheese, beef, and grilled meats. We noted that it was reddish brown, smooth, rich, smoky, subtly sweet, and filling. We liked it.

Beer Advocate raved about Rochefort 10. It’s a Quad style, which means it’s a strong Belgian Ale and typically with dark reds, browns, and garnet hues, and is full bodied, rich, and malty. It pairs well with buttery cheeses (blue, brie, cheddar, swiss, etc.), game, beef, and smoked meat. Our notes described it as maltier, richer, more alcohol, denser, sweeter than 8, and hints of caramel. This was loved by all. We unanimously ranked #10 as our absolute favorite.

Hofbrau Oktoberfest.

Hofbrau Oktoberfest, Marzen/Oktoberfest style, 6.30% ABV, and a BAS of 78.

Beer Advocate called this full-bodied, rich, toasty, and typically dark copper in color. The Marzen/Oktoberfest style means that is a typical beer found at the Munich Ocktoberfest (on my bucket list!). They suggest pairing it with meat, game, salmon, or using it as an apertif. Our notes list it as having a “crispy” flavor and that it was light bodied. It was definitely not “dark copper color”, in contrast to the readily available and delicious Sam Adams Oktoberfest. For our tasting, the Hofbrau came across as an average beer. It would be spectacular ice-cold accompanied by a Cape Cod Cafe pepperoni pizza, or on a hot summer afternoon, if you ask me.

Inferno Ale - The Lost Abbey, 9.0% ABV, and BAS of 96

Inferno Ale – The Lost Abbey, 9.0% ABV, and BAS of 96

There was not a lot written about this ale on Beer Advocate. That being said, there sure was a lot written on the label! Someone has written stanzas containing material reminiscent of Dante’s disturbing Inferno. It was a little creepy…this would make a great Halloween beer. We had made notes of it being citrusy, cloudy, sweet, and typical of a wheat beer.  It reminded me of Blue Moon. Beer Advocate didn’t have many notes other than food pairings, which were meat, game, salmon, and to serve as an apertif.

Petrus Oud Bruin

Petrus Oud Bruin, Flanders and Bruin style, 5.50% ABV, and a BAS of 83.

Okay, there was a mutual distaste/dislike on this one. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, but we classified it as sour, tangy, tart, flavors of cherry, and I added “grape popsicle.” It really did taste like a grape popsicle to me. Anyway, this Belgian beer is fermented in the same way as a Lambic beer (hence, the fruitiness) and we found it wanting. Although, to be fair to Petrus Oud Bruin, we weren’t expecting a Lambic beer, so if we knew ahead of time maybe we wouldn’t ranked it so unfavorably? The Beer Advocate says that this beer can be extremely varied and is often characterized by a slight vinegar or lactic sourness, spiciness, and can be sweet. They suggest pairing it with cheese (I suggest goat cheese), chocolate, and grilled meat. Make sure if you serve this, your guests know what they’re getting or they just might spit it on the floor.

Westmalle Trappist Ale Dubbel,

Westmalle Trappist Ale. Style is Dubbel, 7.0 ABV, and BAS is 93

I bet you’ll never guess where this beer is brewed….that’s right: Belgium!! Next time we host one of these fun tastings, I think we’ll have to make a concerted effort to branch out to more countries. But, what can you do when Belgium makes so much damn good beer? You’re probably thinking, as was I, that this beer is also brewed in a monastery because it has the word Trappist in it’s name. Well, that makes us both wrong. It’s made in a Dubbel style, which means that there is expressive carbonation, it’s malty with a mild hop bitterness, less fruitiness, and dark ale flavors may be present. It sometimes has a caramel flavor from the use of crystal malt or dark candy sugar. We had noted “lots of bubbles,” sweet note, and a classic dark beer.

Young's Double Chocolate Stout, 5.20% ABV, and a BAS of 91

Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Style is Milk/Stout, 5.20% ABV, and a BAS of 91

Generally speaking, none of us at the tasting are dessert people (we’re more of a savory group). We have discovered we definitely aren’t into watery chocolate milk containing  carbonation. Clearly, we must be wrong again since Beer Advocate gave it 91 out of 100, but to each his own. This stout is from the UK and it’s style leaves it with a large amount of dextrins and unfermented sugars. This gives it a sweetness and heavy body, hence, the milk reference. Not a fan of drinking it on its own, but it might be okay in a dessert concoction. Say, over an incredible ice-cream? Yeah, I think that would work.

So, tonight is game 6 and I’m feeling like a cat on a hot-tin roof right now! If Boston wins, it will be the first time winning a series title at home since 1918!! Babe Ruth was playing then. In honor of our Sox, we’re having Fenway Franks for dinner tonight. I went out to our freezer in the garage and grabbed a package REAL hot dog buns  I order from a specialty store online. The “hot dog buns” (and I use that term loosely) here in CA are just awful for dogs. There’s wwwaaaayyy too much bread…they look like mini-sub rolls. All wrong.

Now that's dog! The only thing left to do is squirt on the Gulden's spicy brown mustard and chopped onion.

Now that’s dog! The only thing left to do is squirt on the Gulden’s spicy brown mustard and chopped onion.

Famous Foods is the online provider I buy my buns from.

Famous Foods is the online provider I buy my buns from.

Go RED SOX!!!!!

April

Gemelli Tossed with Grape Tomatoes and Basil-Lemon Pesto

It’s college application time for the twins. Ugh. The experience is eerily similar to what I went through with my older son: exasperating. Only this time it’s deja vu x 2!!!! I find myself once again explaining that I do NOT make the rules and, no, your common app. essay will not, shockingly enough, write itself. Oh, and believe it or not, your essay really should not contain any grammatical errors. I’m so tired of the eye rolling and storming off when errors are spotted. As if I have inserted them on the page, not them. Really. Other than these “small” irritations, I guess it’s going as smoothly as possible when negotiating/rationalizing with two 18 year olds who are completely overwhelmed and stressed to the max with their regular course load + athletics. I really want to remind them that I was the one who begged them, when the common app. prompt became available in August (while they were on break mind you) to get a jump start on the essay. No, I won’t say, “I told you so!”

I’m finding that I need to make quick meals lately so that I can get right back to harassing the twins to get their @#$% done (shooting for a lot of Nov. 1st deadlines)! Pesto is one such fast and nutritious sauce that almost everyone loves. Take-out would certainly be easier, but we try for eating at least six home-cooked dinners a week. It’s not always easy, but it’s truly the only way to know what’s in your food.

Here are the ingredients for gemelli tossed with grape tomatoes and basil-lemon pesto:

  • 1-1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed in the measuring cups)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (germ removed)
  • 1/4 cup fresh pine nuts (pine nuts go stale quickly, so make sure they don’t have an off taste. I keep mine in the freezer)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. minced red chili pepper (adds a little heat)
  • Juice of 1/2 small lemon (the lemon keeps the basil from turning brown and adds a bright flavor)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup EVOO
  • 1 lb of gemelli
  • About a dozen grape tomatoes cut in half
I grated real Parmigiano -Reggianno. It is the BEST!

I grated real Parmigiano-Reggianno. It’s irreplaceable.

I use Garofalo pasta because it's excellent and you can buy it in bulk at Costco! In this photo you will see a funky lemon colored fruit called a Buddha's Hand. I forgot to remove it from the ingredients!

I use Garofalo pasta because it’s excellent and you can buy it in bulk at Costco. In this photo you will also see a funky lemon colored fruit called a Buddha’s Hand. I forgot to remove it from the other ingredients before snapping the photo!

Now I feel the need to explain a Buddha's Hand. It's a lemony and floral smelling fruit that's found in Southeast Asia. It's contains no juice and is completely pith. The zest from this fruit, however, is really bright and tasty.

Now I’m feeling the need to explain a Buddha’s Hand. It’s a lemony/floral smelling fruit that’s found in Southeast Asia. It contains no juice and is all pith. The zest from this fruit, however, is really bright and tasty.

You can break off a finger and put it into hot tea for added flavor.

You can break off a finger and put it into hot tea for added flavor. A little creepy looking, but I assure you, it’s yummy. Getting ramped up for Halloween 🙂

I digress, now let’s get back to the gemelli with tomatoes and pesto.

Remove the little stem from your tomatoes and cut them in half from top to bottom, not across the equator.

Remove the little stem from your tomatoes and cut them in half from top to bottom, not across the equator.

Chop your chili pepper so you can measure it appropriately.

Chop your chili pepper so you can measure it appropriately.

Use your food processor for your pest. Add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, chili pepper, and your parmesan cheese to the processor bowl (be sure it's snapped in place first or you'll be wrestling with your added ingredients)

Use your food processor for your pesto. Add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, chili pepper, and your parmesan cheese to the processor bowl (be sure it’s snapped in place first or you’ll be wrestling with your added ingredients).

Snap the lid on and stream your quality EVOO in the top of the processor while pulsing.

Snap the lid on and stream your quality EVOO in the top opening of the processor while pulsing.

Your pesto should be bright and green and not too oily.

Your pesto should be bright and green and not too oily.

You can get a better view of its consistency as it sits against the rubber spatula.

You can get a better view of its consistency as it sits against the rubber spatula.

Bring a large pot of salty water (should taste like the sea) to boil. Pour your pasta in when ready. Once your pasta reaches al-dente, reserve about 1/4 cup of the starchy pasta water. Add the pesto, tomatoes, and reserved water back to the pot and toss together until warm. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Add more freshly grated parm if you wish and serve immediately!

Add more freshly grated parm if you wish and serve immediately!

I wanted to pass along an interesting interview I heard today with Michael Pollan of “The Omnivores Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.” Michael was recently on the podcast America’s Test Kitchen and the show was “Only 10% Human: Michael Pollan on The Weird Science of Your Gut.” It was fascinating and eye opening. Look for it on: www.americastestkitchenfeed.com.”

Go Red Sox!!!

April