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The King Is Back!

It’s my favorite time of year for beer and all because of this delicious autumn seasonal. This is fall at it’s finest. I just cannot get enough. Southern Tier Brewery of Lakewood, NY has grown to produce more than 60,000 barrels of beer annually. Founders Phineas DeMink and Allen “Skip” Yahn started the brewery in 2002. Since then, have created some of the most unique and thirst quenching beers on the market. Their dessert beer line is an especially popular choice on our shelves. Who could dream of such palate pleasers like Choklat, Creme Brulee, or Plum Noir? But the “KING” is my absolute favorite and for many reasons. Just the pure smell upon opening gives aromas of fresh pumpkin pie, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And each sip leaves you wanting another. The 22 oz. bomber is the perfect package for sharing, or like myself, selfishly enjoying alone. For the ultimate treat, pour Pumking into a tall glass with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Best beer float of your life. Hail to the “KING”!

I will take this over a pumpkin spiced latte any day.

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ABOUT THE BEER
STYLE: Imperial Pumpkin Ale
BREWED SINCE: 2007
ABV: 8.6%
FERMENTATION: Ale yeast, two types of malt, two types of hops, pumpkin
COLOR: Deep copper
EFFERVESCENCE: Medium carbonation
NOSE: Pumpkin, pie spices, buttery crust, vanilla, roasted pecans
FLAVOR: Malty sweetness, vanilla, clove, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, pie crust
BITTERNESS: Low
BODY: Medium-light
SERVING TEMPERATURE: 40-48°F
GLASS: Goblet
AVAILABILITY: Autumn seasonal, August release / 22oz / 1/6 keg
CELLARING: 35-40°F

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Beer for Dessert

Southern Tier‘s stout series is simply amazing for those that appreciate chocolate, coffee, and crème brûlée,(who doesn’t?). The stout series offers seasonal releases of different beers brewed with a variety of dessert worthy flavors. They include: Choklat, Jah’va, Mokah, Oat Imperial, and Crème Brûlée which was recently released.

Brewed with the typical malts (2-row pale) and hops (columbus & horizon), the brewery also adds dark caramel malts, vanilla bean and lactose sugar to the mix to create the signature finesse and sweetness of the beer. Not only a best seller, Crème Brûlée, is also my favorite beer that Southern Tier produces…so when it arrived last week I was excited. However, not in the beer drinking mood this weekend I decided to use the beer in a dessert rather than drink it for dessert.

So here’s my extremely simplistic recipe I came up with for the beer. Please keep in mind that my sister, not I, is the cook (see her blog here) and this is about as complicated as dessert gets for me. If you want to try on your own, buy Crème Brûlée here.

Crème Brûlée Shortcake
serves 2 

Ingredients

  • 2 vanilla pound cake rounds (available at Fresh Market, or your local bakery)
  • Coconut Creme Gelato (can substitute for vanilla)
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Southern Tier Crème Brûlée
Instructions
1. Unwrap the vanilla pound cake rounds and place on a plate
2. Scoop 1 large serving of the coconut cream gelato into the middle of the pound cake
3. Pour Crème Brûlée over the creation, using enough to create a “moat” around the cake
4. Top with chocolate syrup

 

Beer Review: Dogfish Head Theobroma

We were sitting at Amis in Philadelphia last weekend waiting for my sister, husband, and in-laws to join us for dinner. Grabbing a drink at the bar we thought best to order some local brews. Al spotted one of our favorite beers (not available in Florida) – Allagash White Belgian Ale – and decided on that. I spotted an unknown DFH beer (at least to me) brewed with cocoa and ancho chiles? Now I had to try that. After a sip of each beer, Al was holding the Theobroma hostage from me.

For those unfamiliar with Dogfish Head, they are the epitome of what makes craft beer great. They push the envelope, do things others wouldn’t, and are slightly crazy. But all great creations come from people that are just a little nuts. Dogfish Head got its start in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware serving microbrews and great food to summer vacationers in 1995. It wasn’t long before those vacationers craved the beer at home – mainly in the Philadelphia and DC areas. Year after year, they grew. Soon enough they were nationally recognized and distributed, their 120 minute IPA even created a phenomenon of its own. Today you can find DFH in 25 different states, although the majority of their brews stay at that Brewpub in Delaware.

Now about Theobroma…whose story may be more interesting than the beer itself. To quote the Dogfish website,

This beer is based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras which revealed the earliest known alcoholic chocolate drink used by early civilizations to toast special occasions. The discovery of this beverage pushed back the earliest use of cocoa for human consumption more than 500 years to 1200 BC.

Pretty deep for a beer, huh? Based on this discovery, Theobroma which means “food of the gods” is brewed with Aztec Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Nibs. Honey, ancho chiles and annatto (fragrant tree seeds) are added to the mix which deliver most of their flavors on the end of the palette. The beer is medium bodied with a low-hop, smooth finish. We paired this with a spicy pasta dish with jalapenos and sun-dried tomatoes. The sweetness from the cocoa balanced the spiciness of the dish on the front but didn’t overwhelm it because of the chile kick in the beer on the finish.

Overall, an interesting and complex beer and not surprisingly one of our new favorites. Want to know more? Check out this video DFH created about the beer, informative and fun!

Lager or Ale? What’s the Difference?

In honor of our first upcoming Brew Ha-Ha, or beer festival if you will, I thought I would dedicate a post to our most popular beer question….What’s the difference between a lager and an ale?

There are actually only two basic categories of beer:  lager and ale.   The difference lies in three main processes of the brewing that takes us a little onto the ‘beer geek’ side.

Yeast
There are two different types of yeast strains – top-fermenting and bottom-fermenting.  The name is actually as simple as it sounds…top-fermenting yeast sits on top of the beer while it’s in the fermentation tank, bottom-fermenting on the bottom.  Ales use top-fermenting yeasts which rise to the top of the tank at the end of the fermentation process.  This type of yeast also adds the flavors to the Ale, which comes from chemical compounds within the yeast called “esters.”  Lagers use the second kind of yeast, bottom-fermenting, which is also able to be reused after one batch is complete.  However, this type of yeast does not add any flavor to the beer – that usually comes from hops and malts that are added in later.

Time/Temperature
The yeast used in ale prefers higher temperature for fermentation (room temperature up to 75 degrees F), the higher temperature also causes an increase in the fermentation process producing mature beer much faster than lagers.  Lagers, by contrast, ferment at a much slower pace and cooler temperatures (46 – 59 degrees F).  Back in the day, lagers were only made in cooler European climates like Germany.  The term ‘lager’ originally stems from the German word ‘lagern,’ meaning to store which helped Germans distinguish the lager process v. ale process (lagers need more time to ferment and therefore are stored during fermentation).

Other Ingredients
During the brewing process for ales, many recipes call for additional hops, malts, and other ingredients that result in a more bitter and malty taste than lagers.  Ale brewers tend to be a bit more experimental in their recipes adding flavored malts, roasted malts, coffee and even chocolate (called adjuncts in the brewing process).  Lagers are much more basic when it comes to ingredients, which may stem from the old German 1516 Beer Purity Law. It seems more lager producers follow this law trying to stay in the style of traditional German lagers.  The law was originally put in place to prevent brewers from using sub-par ingredients for a way to save some dollars.  However, it now restricts brewers (Germans in particular) to certain hops and malts to keep the crisp, clean taste of a lager.

So what does all that mean to me?
When it comes to beer, yes there are basically only two kinds:  ales and lagers.  But the amount sub categories in those two types has greatly expanded over the last few years especially with the increase of micro breweries across the world.   In general, lagers are lighter and crisper in flavor and ales have a bit more of a backbone.  But it really depends on the producer.  Best bet?  Ask your local beer professional (yours truly & our staff) about what would best match your tastes.  Or taste a lot of different styles – Pale Ales, IPAs, Stouts, etc. (like at our next beer tasting) and decide what you like on your own!..

The Beers of Autumn

Ahh, the beers of Autumn. The weather breaks its summer swelter, it’s time to move to something a bit darker to accompany the hearty and rustic meals on menu. With butternut squash and wild mushrooms, pumpkin pie and apple tarts, the aromas of sage and ginger, cinnamon and cloves, food friendly beers are becoming increasingly popular with traditional holiday meals.

It seems that every brewery these days are making some sort of pumpkin or fall spiced brew. Rightly so, as autumn beers are the most popular of all the seasonals. From Late Harvest to Autumn Maple, Apple and Pear Cider, Oktoberfest Marzens and Pumpkin Spice, there is a beer for ever fall meal. But where to start, and how to pair?

If you are sticking with traditional turkey, stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and gravy for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, you will find that the variety of flavors that can be found in this meal are at all ends of the spectrum. From savory to citrus, sweet and spicy, many find it a difficult task to pair an appropriate wine for the occasion. Luckily, beer is here to save the day. An Oktoberfest Marzen pairs wonderfully with the diverse flavors that come along with this meal. Try Paulaner Oktoberfest, light in body, full in malty flavors, it won’t overpower anything,  but is still big enough to hold its own – $10.80 for a 6 pack. If you are looking for a beer that will pack some bigger flavors, try Dogfish Head Pangaea. It has a warming ginger tone, but a light crisp finish that will cleanse your palate  – $10.50 for a 750 ml bottle. For those of you that prefer a lighter, Champagne-y style beer, go for a cider. Ace Joker Cider $4.50 for a 22 oz bottle, pairs fabulously with a pork roast slow cooked with Granny Smith apples and rosemary. Serve it in a Champagne flute and impress your guests.

If you have ham with orange glaze on the menu, try a Weizen such as Franziskaner Hefeweizen, spicy and light with notes of citrus, coriander and clove – $10.80 for a 6 pack. If you prefer a bolder ham with perhaps a mustard glaze, try a darker styled weizenbock or dunkel weiss such as Julius Echter Dunkelweiss, – $3.50 for a 22 oz bottle. The smooth malts will cut the acidity in the mustard, and with the low hop content it won’t leave you with a bitter aftertaste in your mouth.

For the prime rib, roast tenderloin and brisket lover, try a Scotch ale, a Porter or a heavy German Dopplebock. Spaten Optimator is one of those big, scary dark beers (my favorite!), and be careful of the alcohol content at 7.2%. Certainly not a slugging beer. Perfect for beef with a good amount of peppery flavors or whole peppercorns – $10.80 for a 6 pack. If you choose a rich, dense gravy, Rogue Mocha Porter will do the trick – $13.50 for a 6 pack.

And on to dessert – pumpkin pie, pecan pie and gingerbread cookies go famously with a pumpkin spiced beer. Try Dogfish Head Punkin – $9.90 for a 4 pack. If you simply want beer for dessert, try Southern Tier Creme Brulee (tastes just like burnt cream) $9.25 for a 22 oz and Southern Tier Pumking (tastes like biting into pumpkin pie crust) $7.50 for a 22 oz –  a side of vanilla bean ice cream will suffice.

Most of these beers are seasonal and they do sell out. The next time you can get your hands on these fall specialties won’t be until next year, so grab them while you can and enjoy the holidays!

A Toast to the Beer Glass

As promised, and in lieu of our Domestic Microbrew tasting this coming Wednesday, I am going to take you on a trip to the magical world of the malty beverage and highlight proper beer-ware. Now proper beer-ware is subjective. If you are happy drinking beer out of a red party cup then by all means, go for it. But if you don’t feel like contributing to your local landfill, consider a glass that may assist in accentuating your beer experience.

Weizen Glass

The Weizen Glass (Wheat Glass) has thin walls and a tapered base, allowing for the fruity and often spiceness of a wheat beer to waft directly  into your nostrils. The extended height allows for a decent head often typical of the wheat beer.  Suggested Beers: Hefeweizen, Weizenbock, Dunkelweizen, American Wheat, Witbier

Pint Glass

The Pint Glass comes in two standard sizes, the American Tumbler which holds 16 oz and the Imperial Nonic (shown) which holds 20 oz. The American Tumbler is the most common and is thicker and heavier than the Nonic. The Nonic has a ridge near the top which helps with stacking and organization in the sud slinger world. The larger volume allows for more beer (obviously) and room for a substantial head. Suggested Beers:  Stout, Porter, English Ales

Pilsner Glass

A tall, slender 12 oz glass, the Pilsner Glass showcases the light colors, clarity and effervescence of a Pilsner style lager. Suggested Beers: Czech Pilsner, German Pilsner, American Lager

Goblet or Chalice

This stemmed beer glass is designed for Belgian Ales and German Bocks. The Goblet (shown) is typically thinner and more delicate  than the heavier, thicker Chalice. If you look into the bottom of the glass you will usually find a scoured texture which is meant to circulate the CO2, providing constant release of bubbles as well as head retention. Suggested Beers: Belgian IPA, Belgian Heavy Dark Ale, Dubbel,  Tripel, Quadrupel

Snifter

If you order a high alcohol beer at your local pub, chances are they will serve it in a smaller portioned glass. The Snifter is the most common. The wide base which tapers to a narrow rim keeps the aromas within the glass and allows for swirling without sloshing beer all over your neighbor. Stick your nose in your glass and be prepared for an intense bouquet of brew. Suggested Beers: Barley Wine, Imperial IPA, Imperial Stout, Lambic, Belgian Strong Ale

Mug

If you’ve ever joined a mug club, this is probably what you got. Your very own mug, maybe even with your name on it, proudly hanging amongst the mugs of your friends at your local watering hole. This is the oldest version of a beer holding device, dating back to the Black Plague era. The original mugs came equipped with a lid to prevent flies – evil plague carriers – from landing in your brew. Some of the ornate German Steins still have lids to this day. Suggested Beers:  American Amber, American Pale Ale, IPA, English Bitter, English Brown Ale, Scottish Ale

So there you have a sampling of the wide variety of vehicles available to the beer aficionado. There are more to mention, but these are the standards. Don’t be afraid to ask for a glass either. Oftentimes your bartender will overlook the obvious and hand you a brown bottle sans glass. Since the sense of smell makes up the majority of your tasting experience (many flavors you think you are tasting are actually aromas creeping up the back of your throat into your nasal cavity), it seems logical to serve your beer in a glass that will accentuate these aromas. Think about what you may be missing out on by drinking beer out of a tiny hole at the top of your beer bottle. If you truly want to experience your beer, pour it into a glass.

Decanted is located at 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples FL. Join us for monthly beer tastings. More information at http://www.decantedwines.com

What’s the Deal with Golden Monkey?

Everywhere I go these days Golden Monkey is the hot commodity. I overhear bar patrons asking their friendly bartender if they serve Golden Monkey…”I’m sorry, we ran out!” Comes the reply. It has a following, like a classic movie, beer enthusiasts (or simply beer drinkers) have been recently listing it as one of their top fav’s. So what’s the deal with this beer?

I found myself at my neighborhood bar one night several months ago, looking

at Golden Monkey on the beer menu. Although I wasn’t sure what to expect, I figured I better see what all the hub bub was about. As I poured it into the glass from its deeply hued bottle with its all-seeing eye and a Buddha monkey figure of some sort, its deep straw colored full-bodied texture filled my glass and perked with just that little extra head that Belgians ales tend to show. An

aroma of citrus and floral hit my nose and that characteristic snap of Belgian yeast. It was refreshing, strong but light at the same time, citrus and smooth with a bite. Delicious, I thought, but I still don’t understand the fuss. Until I finished my beer and noticed a serious buzz. Ahhh, 9.5% alcohol in this sucker.

Produced by Victory Brewing Company out of Dowingtown, PA, this beer has become kind of an icon of sorts among their eleven year-round beers and eight rotating seasonal brews. The fact that Southwest Floridians have jumped so willingly on to the Monkey wagon says their doing something right. It takes a stand-up beer to steer many of us away from the American Lagers on a steamy summer day down here in the South. Maybe it’s simply the fact that it only takes two, depending on your tolerance.

Victory’s Golden Monkey – $2.50

You can find Golden Monkey at Decanted Wines, 1410 Pine Ridge Rd, Naples FL 34108

Discovering Your Beer Personality

Hercules Double IPA by Great DivideThe new, hot alcohol trend across the U.S. has been micro-brews.  Breweries are popping up everywhere from small towns in the Rocky Mountains to city dwellings like Philadelphia.  Everyone has to try the new hometown brew and is even more excited if they discover something ‘unknown’ to their friends and fellow beer-geeks.  Here in Florida, it has been a slower process.  We are not surrounded by breweries and even have a hard time getting some of these unknown beers in the state.  But with demand increasing, a few are starting to creep in.

Beers are very similar to wines.  There are different types of styles, regions, and brewmasters.  It almost seems overwhelming when you address the number of different options that you have.  A few months back, Food & Wine published an article about the best beers for wine lovers (click here to read the full story).  We’re republishing and expanding the list for those of you who are thinking about branching into new waters and discovering your beer personality.

If you like: Riesling, Dessert Wines
Try: Cider.
Cider is typically made from apple ciders varying in alcohol percentage from 2 – 6%.  Ciders can be made sweet and fruit flavored (apple, pear, black currant) or ultra dry.  Cider is most popular in the UK, but starting to make an emergence in the states.
Explore: Ace Pear Cider ($2), Fox Barrel Black Currant ($2), Blackthorn Dry Cider ($2)

If you like: Sauvignon Blanc, Light & Dry Whites
Try: Wheat beers.
Wheat beer is brewed with a large amount of wheat and malted barley.  There are two traditional styles of wheat beer:  witbier (Belgian white beer) and weissbier (German white beer).  The flavor profiles of wheat beers can differ significantly but in general are light and crisp, slightly sour, and often a citrus flavor.
Explore: Tangerine Wheat ($1.75), Wittekerke ($1.50)

If you like: Pinot Noirs, Light Reds
Try: Full-bodied ales.
Ale is brewed from malted barley and fermented relatively quickly giving the beer a more fruit-forward, floral and full-bodied taste. Ales come in a multitude of options:  pale ale, Belgian ale, brown ale, and scotch ale are just some options.  In general, the darker the color the more hops you will taste in the beer.
Explore: Pinkus Organic Pale Ale ($4), Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale ($2), Tripel Karameliet Trappist Ale ($5)

If you like: Cabernets, Heavy Reds
Try: Porters and IPAs
A porter is a dark-colored and full flavored beer made popular in London.  Very similar to stouts, these beers can be made with pumpkin, honey, vanilla, chocolate and bourbon flavors.  IPA, or Indian Pale Ale,  is a medium to dark-colored ale characterized by a bitter, hoppy and malty flavor.  IPAs have gained popularity in the U.S. and are made in a number of small micro-brews in the west.
Explore: Old Slug Porter ($5.25), Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA ($2), Great Divide Hercules Double IPA ($3.50)

A Toast to St. Patrick

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Who was that guy and why is it a major beer-drinking holiday celebrated with parades and shenanigans? Why do we wear green?

 Well, we can look no further than the Irish, as St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day started as purely a Christian observance holiday, then was developed into a feast holiday, and today is celebrated by Irish descendants world-wide. 

 St. Patrick was born into a Roman-British family in the early 400’s AD with the birth name, Maewyn. He was given his Christian name of Patrick when he entered the priesthood later in life. He was captured by Irish raiders and taken into slavery at the age of 16. After six years he was able to escape and he fled to Gaul where he joined the Church and studied to be a priest. I suppose if one was held captive by the Irish for six years, one wouldn’t be too eager to return – however in 432 Patrick returned to Ireland as a bishop and spent 30 years teaching God’s word. During that time, St. Patrick was successful in converting a large number of Irish citizens to Christianity. The Irish were certainly thankful for Patrick’s forgiveness of their sins; in return they dubbed him a saint and declared March 17th an official holiday in remembrance.

 Originally St. Patrick was associated with the color blue, however over the years the transition has been to green, mainly due to the shamrock. The wearing of the shamrock is a Christian tradition. It is said that St. Patrick used the shamrock as a teaching example to explain the Holy Trinity – the father, son and Holy Spirit. Today, whether Irish or not, green is a customary color worn, along with shamrock pins, beaded necklaces and Leprechaun hats. 

 Starting in the 1600’s, March 17th became a day that Irish Christians could take a break from fasting during the 40 days of lent. They were allowed one day to feast and drink alcohol. Over the centuries, the day has evolved to include parades, pub events and outrageous green attire. In 1931 the first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Dublin. Today New York City hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the world. Chicago even goes so far to dye the Chicago River green. 

 Green Beer and Irish Stout

 Green beer is a popular drink on St. Patrick’s Day, a way to truly show your spirit. Many bars and pubs offer a special green beer on their menu during the week of St. Patrick’s Day. Often just a drop or two of food coloring in a light colored lager is all you need to add to festive touch to your beverage, but beware of green teeth if you have one too many! 

 A good Irish stout is another widely consumed beverage on March 17th. Dublin-brewed Guinness is by far the most popular and well known choice. Guinness is a “dry Irish stout,” but other types of stouts to sample include imperial stouts, sweet milk stouts, oatmeal stouts and a close cousin to the stout, the porter. Domestic company Lagunitas out of California brews a mean Cappuccino Stout. An imperial style stout, Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout boasts 9.2% abv with dark malts, roasted barley and local coffee thrown in the mix.  

 If you want to really get festive, ask your friendly bartender to whip up an Irish Car Bomb. Half a pint of Guinness and a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream mixed with Jamison Irish Whisky. Simply drop the shot in the pint glass and chug. They are dangerously delicious, so make sure to pace yourself!