Category Archives: beer

Holiday Traditions and Memorable Dinners

The holiday season has its traditions. For some, it’s putting up twinkling lights, last-minute shopping, and celebratory parties. For me, it’s memorable dinners.

My holiday wining and dining kickoff is at Seaview’s Shelburne Inn. The Wild Mushroom and Pike Brewing Dinner, now in its eighth year, has one common ingredient in each course — wild mushrooms. And more often than not, a splash of Charles and Rose Ann Finkel’s accompanying brews.

A few of the memorable dishes over the years were a cedar planked salmon with Man on Horseback mushrooms, lemon confit and pine nut relish; a duck and Porcini mushroom pie; Canary, Delicioso and Red Russula mushrooms, squash and white cheddar gratin; a luscious deconstructed Lobster mushroom lasagna; and an incredible elk shoulder pastrami bruschetta with Anjou pear and King Boletus mushrooms.

Sometimes, even the dessert has mushrooms. Sounds sort of weird, but the house-made Pike Stout ice cream in a Porcini Florentine cookie topped with pumpkin caramel and Porcini brittle was so decadent, I might have licked the plate.

This year, we sat down to a cream of wild mushroom soup with a touch of cayenne perfectly paired to Pike’s Hive Five Honey Ale. For this ale, Pike Brewing collaborated with the Salish Lodge. On the hillside above the famed lodge are their beehives and their honey used to make this gold medal-winning ale.

Perfectly paired with the Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale was a pretzel sandwich stuffed with a pork and wild mushroom sausage, peppers and more mushrooms. Next up was a pan-seared king salmon with sautéed wild mushroom and a huckleberry demi-glace accompanied by Pike’s Monk’s Uncle, a Belgian tripel-style ale. Then an elk sirloin with a wild mushroom risotto partnered with Pike’s Entire Imperial Russian Stout 2016.

A longtime fan of wine, I asked if we could enjoy a bottle of wine with these wonderful mushroom dishes. The salmon and the elk and mushroom risotto were outstanding with Knudsen’s Pinot Noir.

Another pre-holiday tradition is a harvest potluck with friends. For that occasion, it was another Oregon Pinot that stole the show.

We began with a Kitzke 2011 Red Mountain Nebbiolo, salami and cheese. Nebbiolo is the late-ripening grape of the Barolo and Barbaresco regions of northwest Italy. Traditionally, Barolos can be long-lived, 15 to 25 years; Barbarescos, the more approachable, in 5 to 10 years.

Before Barolo can be released, it has to have been aged three years, two in cask and one in the bottle. This was because Barolo tended to be very high in tannins as a result of the traditional three-week fermentation on the skins.

That was the traditional way. The new generation is more inclined to produce a wine with an “international” profile that doesn’t need to age as long. This controversy has sparked the Barolo Wars.

The Nebbiolo was showing its age, in a good way — light in color, a slight brick rim and a silky mouthfeel. With only 30 months in neutral oak, the aromas and flavors showed traditional rose, faint cherry and a bit of tar.

Next, Raptor Ridge’s 2016 Chehalem Mountains Grüner Veltliner was a beautiful match to the Geoduck Carpaccio with Shichimi Togarashi citrus vinaigrette. An unusual find in the Pacific Northwest, Grüner Veltliner is a refreshing, peppery white wine with stone fruit flavors.

Chelan’s Cairdess Northern White accompanied the chicken white chili. This Rhône-style blend of Marsanne and Roussanne from Boushey and Lawrence Vineyards was packed with peach and mineral flavors.

The crowning glory of the dinner was the sous vide tri-tip steak. Sous vide (French for under vacuum) is a new kitchen gadget that’s like cooking in a hot tub. The meat evenly cooks in a baggie in a water bath for much longer time than normal. This ensures all the moisture is retained. The Tri-tip came out very rich, tender and silky.

We had two very different wines with this course. The first was the Domaine Drouhin Louise 2007 Pinot Noir. Not a great year for some producers, much depending on when the grapes were picked.

The 2007 spring came off without a glitch; summer was cooler than most without any heat spikes that could disrupt the growing season. Everything was great going into harvest — and then it rained.

Some picked early to get it in before the rains, but the grapes weren’t really ready. Some harvested between the rain events, hoping for some usable grapes even if they had not fully ripened. But those who waited while gnawing on their nails fared the best.

The Louise opened to tart cherries with a bit of leather and dust, the acidity was good and the color youthful for a 10-year-old wine. It was a very nice bottle.

Next, we poured a 2015 Yakima Valley Sheridan Cab. The difference was night and day, one elegant with age, the other elegant in its youth. Big and rich, ripe plums and pencil lead, this wine knocked our socks off. We were all grinning over the awesome aromas of plums, cassis and pencil lead.

But the pièces de résistance was the Domaine Drouhin Oregon Louise 2007, the “Rolls Royce of Oregon Pinots” according to our host. I agree. The Louise cuvée had the most compelling perfume.

From the Red Hills of Dundee, the grapes were handpicked, sorted, de-stemmed, and then slowly fermented. For each vintage, DDO focuses on a few favorite barrels that, once nurtured and blended, will become the Louise. Typically in barrel for 15 months, it maintains balance because they use only 20 percent new French oak.

The lesson learned is not to dismiss rainy vintages. Winemakers working with what Mother Nature gives in a cool vintage, have higher acid levels and lower alcohol levels than usual, and with patience, producing some of the most lovely, fragrant wines.

Cheers and happy holidays!

Bremerton Summer Brewfest

The 6th annual Bremerton Summer Brewfest will expand to two days this year! Located on the on the scenic Bremerton waterfront , just a hop, skip and a jump from the ferries, this Washington Beer Commission event features around 30 Washington breweries pouring more than 100 craft beers.

To celebrate summer, Washington brewers will be focusing on fruit-infused beers as they did last year. Remember the randall? Join the revelry at the Bremerton Summer Brewfest to learn from expert brewers while you enjoy live music and local food.

Dates & Times
Friday, July 15, 4pm-9pm
Saturday, July 16, Noon-6:30pm

Location
Bremerton Boardwalk

Tickets

$20 advance tickets/$25 at the door while supplies last ($15 for Military with valid ID)
Admission includes a commemorative tasting glass & six 5 oz. tastes; additional tokens – $2 each or three for $5. Washington Beer Lover members receive two bonus tokens with their passports

$20 tickets also available at these ticket outlets:
Cash Brewing in Silverdale
Der Blokken Brewer in Bremerton
Downpour Brewing in Kingston
Pike Brewing in Seattle
Silver City in Bremerton
Sound Brewery in Poulsbo

Roll out the Barrel Aged Beer

While browsing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide recently, an amusing thought occurred to me. We all know where wine country is but where is beer country?

In this visitor’s guide, fun trips for visiting family and friends included boom towns, bike trails, fairways, volcanoes, heli-skiing, islands, rain forests and wine country but nothing about beer country.

So I did an online search for beer country. Nada. No where. Another search for hop country was darned fascinating. There is no such thing as hop country but there is Hick Hop Country which is a concept pertinent to beer in unique ways.

When you think about Wine Country, you envision vineyards, barrel rooms and tasting bars. You know this is where they grow great grapes, ferment and age fabulous wines. Federal Law actually requires the wine labels to inform you where the grapes are from be it Barossa Valley, Burgundy or Bainbridge Island. And this helps you understand the importance of wine regions where the wine grapes are grown to the wine’s quality.

But most beer labels are woefully sparse on the origins of the grains and hops and how they’re treated in the fermentation process that will affect the final product. It doesn’t make sense that where grain and hops are grown doesn’t contribute to the quality of the brew, especially when you consider how much hops and grain are grown in Washington State.

Washington State produces 77% of the United States’ hop harvest. Washington hop growers raise both aroma and alpha variety hops. The majority of the hops produced in Washington are alpha and super alpha varieties. Alpha hops are designer hops, used as a bittering agent in your IPAs and other brews.

Traditional aroma varieties, Willamette, Cascade, and Mt. Hood have been grown in eastern Washington – aka Wine Country – for generations. The economic impact of the Washington beer industry contributes greatly to our state’s economic vitality. Revenue generated was in excess of $6 billion in 2014.

While many of us are proud of the wonderful award winning beers produced here in the Kitsap Peninsula, we are clearly behind in per capita consumption. In 2012, the United States drank 77.1 liters per person, with some doing more and others clearly not doing their part.

We rank 14th in per capita beer consumption behind the likes of Finland, Panama, Slovenia, Venezuela and other more obvious stein sloshing nations like the Czech Republic, Poland, Ireland and Germany. Astonishingly, IPA’s namesake, India, drinks 2 liters per capita which is the equivalent of 5.6 six packs.

Wine on the other hand, is an equally intriguing story. Not surprisingly, the majority of the highest ranking wine consumption countries are in Europe. Surprisingly, it’s the country of Vatican City that utterly dominates every other country, with 73.38 liters per capita in 2012. That is amazing considering there are only about 800 Roman Catholic adults in this country. France clocks in at 44.12 liters per capita. And Italy? 37.54 liters per capita.

Even Canada (11.70L) quaffed more wine than the United States, at a mere 10.33 liters per capita. The take away from this news is we, as a country need to give more beer and/or wine gifts.

We can start with our Christmas lists. Cross off sweaters and such and give a thoughtful gift of Eleven late harvest Viognier, Rolling Bay Syrah or Amelia Wynn Merlot.

On the beer side, I would highly recommend a barrel aged beer. Barrel aged beer is more complex, richer and concentrated. For thousands of years, beer was not only aged but brewed and transported in wood. Today, they’re boiled in copper kettles, fermented in stainless steel and for the most part, then bottled. But several years ago, the bourbon barrel made its grand entrance into the brewing world.

The law dictates that bourbon makers can only use a barrel once. After that first use, the expensive barrels are re-purposed. Bourbon barrels are sent around the world to age Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Sherry, and most recently, big beers.

Bourbon barrels aren’t the only containers brewers are using, either. Those creative folks also use sherry, wine, tequila, and rum barrels. At a recent barrel aged beer tasting, I tasted beer aged in bourbon, brandy, sherry, tequila, Viognier, Muscat, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay barrels. One beer was even made with grains, Grenache Blanc and Chardonnay grapes and fermented with both lager and champagne yeast.

deschutesHere are a few barrel aged beers that would make great stocking stuffers:

Deschutes The Abyss is imperial stout, partly aged in Bourbon, Pinot Noir, and new oak barrels.  Almanac’s Barrel Noir is a stout aged in tequila barrels. And Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper is a quintessential bourbon barrel aged imperial stout, full of chocolate covered caramel flavors

Firestone Walker’s Anniversary Ales are always a blend of bourbon and brandy barrel aged beers. Most years the blend can be from as many as eight separate barrels of their Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Bravo and/or Velvet Merkin. The result is a masterful blended beer that is highly sought after and prized.  The perfect gift.

Scaldis Prestige NuitsScaldis Prestige de Nuits is a Belgian strong ale that’s aged in Burgundy barrels from Hospices de Nuits Saint Georges. This prestigious French Burgundy barrel caught my attention. The beer takes almost a year to produce and is fermented a total of three times. Once in tank, then in the wine cask, and finally in the bottle. And it’s a third of the price of a bottle of Hospices de Nuits Saint Georges.

Cheers!

It’s a Beer … It’s a Wine … It’s Barleywine!

The name Barleywine was given to this style of beer because its alcohol was more in the range of wine than that of a beer.
varleywine shot
Verticals of Barleywine

Barleywine had been around in one incarnation or another for a couple of centuries. The term barleywine was first used in the late 1800s. A couple of centuries later, barleywine production is a blend of modern brewing techniques and old traditions.

This style goes back to the days of parti-gyle brewing where, the first run of this brewing method were, of course, the bigger and more flavorful. Parti-Gyle brewing is the technique of making more than one batch of beer from a single mash. These big, complex ales were highly prized and reserved for special occasions and people, similar to an aged port.
Barleywine essentially a very strong beer, top fermented with lots of malt. Hop character is generally mild and bitterness from the hops is often low compared to the high gravity. The beer is complex, with a sweet malt character, often with hints of dried fruits, treacle, toffee and a pleasant sherry-like flavor after some cellaring.
Yes, cellaring a beer. There’s a modern day concept. Beer does age and like wine the ones with higher sugar and tannin content tend to age more gracefully. One of the first verticals I experienced was a mid 80s barleywine that had been in the cellar for 10 years. It opened a whole new world.
And I’ll bet you’re wondering, like I did back then, how can that be? It’s because there is a ton of malt sugars, tannins from the hops and higher alcohol, all excellent preservatives on their own.
Brewers measure the different components of their brews in IBUs, O.G. and F.G. IBUs are international bittering units. This component comes from the hops and in a barleywine could be anywhere from 30 to 120 IBUs.
There are two ways hops are introduced into a brew. One is to put it in with the boil and the other is to dry hop which is to put it in later when it would impart more aroma than bitter flavor. Hops are used to balance the sweet malt sugars.
How sweet are the malt sugars? That would be a measurement known as Original Gravity or O.G. This tells a brewer how heavy the malt sugars in his mash are. For a barley wine, the O.G. will be anywhere between 1.080 and 1.120 or more.
The rich flavor and deep color of a barleywine comes from the amount of grain that’s jam-packed into the brew and the length of time for the boil which caramelizes the sugars, concentrating the color and the flavor. There are many kinds of malt light, dark, black, blonde, toasted. If a lot of malts are used, and many different types, you will have a fairly complex beer.
A barley wine typically reaches an alcohol strength of 9 to 13% by volume and is brewed from specific gravities as high as 1.130. The Final Gravity (FG) is the specific gravity measured at the completion of fermentation and is usually between 1.018 and 1.030 for a barleywine.
So much is packed into barley wine that it usually takes a few years to mellow out to its best. Many barleywines are vintage dated, much like a vintage wine. Like port, barley wine has huge amounts of alcohol, sugars, and a fair amount of balancing bitterness. It takes time for these components to mellow into the full, complex drink that this style is known for.
Barleywine is also an excellent example of the style difference between the American and British versions. British barleywines are very malty and a light touch of hops for balance. Until the introduction of an amber-colored barley wine under the name Gold Label by the Sheffield brewery Tennant’s in 1951, British barley wines were always dark in color.
American versions are just as big in malt flavor with colors usually ranging from amber to light brown, but there is also a tendency to higher IBUs, giving the beer a very bitter hoppiness, especially when young. This will change with time in the cellar.
Barleywine was first made in the United States in 1976 by Anchor Brewing Company.  Its Old Foghorn Barleywine was one word as opposed to the British two word barley wine. It was a marketing decision; the word wine on a beer label was a way around the regulators. Old Foghorn was bottled in nips, a 4 oz bottle.
Barleywine names are as rich as the beers. Here are some examples with their ABV that is definitely as high as wine:
Anchor Brewing Company Old Foghorn 10
Arcadia Brewing Company Cereal Killer Barleywine 12
Deschutes Brewery Mirror Mirror 11
Dry Dock Brewing Bligh’s Barleywine Ale   10
Firestone Walker Brewing Sucaba     12.5
Flying Dog Brewery Horn Dog Barley Wine Style Ale 10.2
Goose Island Beer Bourbon County Barleywine 12.1
Heavy Seas Beer Below Decks Barley Wine   10
J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale 11.5, Harvest Ale (Lagavulin Whisky Cask) 11.5, Harvest Ale (Port Cask) 11.5, Harvest Ale (Sherry Cask) 11.5
Left Hand Brewing Oak Aged Widdershins  10.7
Midnight Sun Brewing Arctic Devil Barley Wine    13.2
Old Dominion Brewing Dominion Millennium Ale 10.5
Pelican Pub & Brewery Mother of All Storms          14
Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project Our Finest Regards         12.1
Ridgeway Brewing Criminally Bad Elf         10.5
Shipyard Brewing Shipyard Double Old Thumper Ale         11.2
The Bruery Smooth Criminal 15
Weyerbacher Brewing Insanity 11.1 and Blithering Idiot     11.1
These beers are made in small batches and best after a few years of aging. Tuck a few into the cellar for a few years and you’ll have a real treat. Beer unlike wine should be cellared upright as they usually don’t have a cork to keep damp.