Monday, December 13, 2010

Enten - Eller

"Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it."
-Søren Kierkegaard (Either/Or)

Not here at Food and Fermentation. We try to savor every moment, bite, and sip of the delicious food and brew that comes across our path. The post for today is one that I've actually been meaning to write up for a week or two now and it looks at an awesome collaboration between the Hill Farmstead Brewery and Cigar City Brewing. A while back, these two breweries got together to brew a pair of beers named Either and Or, which are two huge Black IPA's that clock in at 11.2% ABV. Pretty sweet. Anyways, the names actually come from Kierkegaard's 1843 work, Either/Or, which focuses on both the aesthetic and ethical life styles, but ultimately finds both flawed and suggests religion as the most fulfilling path. Whether you agree with Kierkegaard's conclusions or not, most of his works are fairly enlightening reads, especially if you have a sweet spot for philosophy.

Having graduated from St. Olaf College, which has about 11,000 book volumes of work revolving around Kierkegaard in the St. Olaf Kierkegaard library, I have had some decent exposure to his work. However, I personally find Camus' existentialist thoughts to be more in line with my own thinking than Kierkegaard's, even though some find Camus to be more of a novelist than a philosopher. Either way, both authors spark some interesting conversation, especially when paired with a well crafted beer(s), and what better beers to get the mental juices flowing than the Either and Or pair.

Both beers pour essentially black, but after swirling the glass a bit, Or delivers a much stronger hop punch on the nose than Either. Further inspection of the aroma pulls out some roasty dark malts and the sweet addition of Ty Ty honey. The taste, however, is the highlight, at least for Or. Both beers were aged on cedar, which is a pretty interesting addition, considering that 99% of beers that are aged on wood, are aged on oak. The cedar, especially in Or, melded perfectly with the earthy/grassy hop notes, giving the beer another dimension filled with tasty, toasted, cedar wood.

Or was definitely the highlight for both Jen and I, but Either was quite good as well. The only downside to Either was that it dropped the hop profile of Or and instead focused on the sweeter side of things. This lead to a muddled and somewhat cloying end to the beer, but in the general scheme of things it still provided a malty and complex brew that was fun to drink. Overall, these were two interesting beers and I would definitely pick up another bottle of Or if I had access to it. Hopefully Cigar City and The Hill Farmstead team up for another collaboration in the future. Both breweries are brewing some pretty amazing beers and you should definitely check them out if you haven't already. In meantime, pick up some Camus and a good beer. The combination is excellent.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rum Pancakes

What's the best rum you have ever had? "Rum and coke" is not a valid response.

Many weeks back Matt and I hosted a beer tasting at his posh bachelor pad for a few handfuls of friends and their family. There was I introduced to Goslings Old Rum in what could possibly be my new favorite style of sipping glass. The flavor of the rum: amazing. So rich, complex and silky with a big slightly spicy vanilla-ed barrel presence. Needless to say I was on the hunt for it thereafter. I picked up a bottle at Julio's, nestled in a wooden display box with a viewing window. Being used to beers I poured an entire snifter full and only managed half of it over the course of the night. The remaining half (about a shot) sat in the glass, covered with Saran Wrap, for a few days before I decided something must be done.

Lucky for me it had been another late day at work so I didn't go with my initial inclination to add it to a batch of baked sweets. The following morning after sleeping in and forgetting all about it, I was throwing pancakes together with a leftover carton of half and half when, bleary-eyed, I spotted the glass. Lacking the better judgment that comes with consciousness, I threw it in the batter. Problem solved, I thought.

Almost. The rum messed with the pH a little and brought out the soapier flavors of my baking soda. I simultaneously realized the batter wasn't sweet enough and added a few more tablespoons of sugar which seemed to even everything out. The result?

I named it Phil. The one on top. The others are nameless.
Picture perfect pancakes with a deliciously complex barrel-aged rum flavor. Awesome with the thick real maple syrup I buy off a guy at work and stock the house with. Factoring in the price of the shot of rum, these pancakes were pretty expensive but hey, live a little I say.

Grade B baby!
To recreate this recipe, take your favorite 2 person serving pancake batter and add a shot of rum plus sugar to taste. In other news, want to see what 1/57th of a stick of butter looks like?

1/57 of a stick is approximately the residual on four butter wrappers, by weight.
So if you are counting calories out there (first of all I pity you but second of all), take comfort in the fact that using four whole stick of room temperature butter in your recipe is really sparing you ~0.5% of those butter calories... unless you use those wrappers to grease your pan. Then all bets are off.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Heady Topper

Well, I'm currently finishing up some bioluminescent studies in the lab, but figured I would post a brief update on the beer festivities from last weekend. At around 7 am on Saturday, Jen, Dave and myself made our trek north to the Heady Topper release at The Alchemist in Waterbury, VT. We arrived around 8:45 am with some decent snow flurries and were relieved to see that the line outside of the pub was not too long, so we parked and headed to the closest shop with coffee and food. As much as I love beer, it's hard to beat a fresh cup of coffee in the morning, especially when it's snowing (the sausage, cheese and egg bagel was pretty good too).

After getting some caffeine in the system we ventured back outside and made our way to the Heady Topper line, which had grown a little bit, but wasn't too bad yet. For those of you that don't know, Heady Topper is an 8%, 120 IBU, double IPA brewed by John Kimmich at The Alchemist. Besides being a delicious DIPA, it is also the first beer to ever be bottled by the brewery, mostly as a response to the huge demand for the beer. People have even tried to hand bottle this under the table, so that they can walk out (illegally) with a bottle to go. Therefore, it was not surprising that well over a hundred people were in line when the pub opened at 11 am.

Once inside the doors we paid for our 3 bottle limit of Heady Topper and moved down to the end of the bar where they were serving $5 pints with a free glass. Of course I grabbed a fresh pint of Heady Topper from the tap, which was packed full of hops and grapefruit bitterness like usual. Jen on the other hand picked up a pint of The Alchemist's pumpkin saison, which was also quite good and really brought out a lot of rustic, earthy, pumpkin flavor.

With pints in hand we moved over to where they were hand wrapping bottles of Heady Topper and picked up our allotment. In addition to the free glassware, The Alchemist also had free hot dogs for everyone and you got a bottle opener and a Heady Topper pin with your purchase of 1-3 bottles. This release was definitely classy and I think everyone agreed that it went very smoothly. I'm really hoping they decide to do another bottle release in the future. I'd love to be able to take some of their wilds and other stellar offerings home with me.

After enjoying some fresh Heady Topper and pumpkin saison, we dropped off our bottles in the car and headed over to the Blackback Pub, which is just across the street from The Alchemist. Blackback is an awesome little craft beer bar that usually has 8 or 9 beers on tap and tends to showcase some of Vermont's finest brews. Today was no exception. Blackback had a fresh keg of Lawson's Paradise Ale and The Hill Farmstead's latest saison offering (Dorothy) and winter porter (Twilight of the Idols). Along with the local offerings they also had Stone's Lukcy Basartd, Dogfish Head's Olde School Barleywine and Petrus Aged Pale just to name a few. Having already gotten my hop fix from the Heady Topper I asked for a pour of Twilight of the Idols, which was an excellent choice, especially with the cold winter weather outside.

Tipping back the glass revealed complex layers of vanilla, cinnamon and dark chocolate, which were all encased in a smooth, velvety, body of liquid. Great stuff, but I already knew that before ordering, since I had been lucky enough to have this once before at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington, VT. Once my glass was empty, we decided to shove off and make our way down to the Warren Store in Warren, VT. The Warren Store is well known by beer enthusiasts in the northern Vermont area, because it is the only store that sells Lawson's, period. The only other places you can get Sean Lawson's beers are at a few select farmer's markets from time to time or from him personally.

Anyways, since we were only about 20 minutes away from the store, it would have been a shame not to go. So we headed on down and actually got to meet Sean there when we arrived. After tasting a delicious sample of his upcoming Barrel-Aged Fayston Maple Imperial Stout we picked up a bottle of the Chinooker'd IPA, the Maple Nipple and the Red Spruce Bitter and headed on home. As usual, we had a great time up in the Waterbury/Warren area and hopefully we'll be back this winter for some skiing and of course beer sampling.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

AIChE, Salt Lake City, and Recent Brews

So it's definitely been a few days since the last update on this blog. November has been an extremely busy month, but at least a good one. Work is going well and some tasty brews have crossed our path. The month started out with me flying to Salt Lake City and presenting at the annual AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineering) conference. I thought the talk went pretty well and there seemed to be some genuine interest in the enzyme therapeutics we're developing for bacterial biofilm disruption in the airways of Cytstic Fibrosis patients.

Salt Lake City itself was fairly picturesque. A very clean city with a mountain backdrop and lots of interesting architecture. Below are a set of pictures from the city starting with the conference center and then some pictures from the Temple Square area. Pretty hard to miss the Mormon influence on this city.

After walking around Temple Square for a bit, I decided to head over to one of the local breweries. The brewery, Squatters, was just a few blocks from the downtown Marriott I stayed at and looked like a good place to grab a snack in between conference talks.

The pub area of the brewery had a nice open feeling to it with a raised ceiling and fireplace. This would definitely be a nice place to hit up during the winter after a few runs on the ski slopes. After checking out the beer menu I decided to grab a bottle of Hop Rising, which is their current double IPA (DIPA). The brew clocks in at 9% ABV, 75 IBUs and is only served in the bottle format at the moment. My first thought when receiving the bottle was that 75 IBUs seemed a bit low for a DIPA, and I was right. Hop Rising is much more of a malt bomb than a hop bomb and unfortunately the 9% ABV was not very well masked. I'm probably spoiled with all the awesome Vermont DIPAs I have access to here in New England, but this beer probably wouldn't hold up well against most DIPAs across the country. That being said, I still really liked the atmosphere of the pub and the rest of their brews may be a better representation of the brewery, but Hop Rising is not worth checking out in my opinion.

After flying back from Salt Lake City, I was greeted by some awesome packages in the mail. The first of which contained some very exciting brews from North Carolina and the second held some fairly hyped sours from Oregon. From the NC package (thanks to cmrillo) I pulled out a Barrel-Aged Sexual Chocolate for a local tasting. This brew clocks in at 9.75% ABV and is the regular Sexual Chocolate Russian Imperial Stout that Foothills brews, but is then aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels before being bottled. Compared to the regular version, the barrel-aged version definitely steps things up. I loved the nose and flavor on this one. A strong, but not overwhelming, bourbon presence lasted throughout, adding hints of vanilla and oak to the already well defined cocoa presence of this beer. The only let down was the mouthfeel. It appears that the barrels probably thinned this beer out a bit. I'm not really complaining, but it would nice to see this brew with a beefier body. All in all though it was quite enjoyable and a well executed example of the barrel-aged stout style. Wish I had another for the cellar.

At the same tasting we also busted out one of the Oregon sours from Cascade Brewing in Portland Oregon. I felt a bit sour (haha) about this beer before I even opened it, due to the ridiculous prices Cascade was charging for shipping, but I tried to put those behind me as I opened the bottle. The brew happened to be Cascade's 2009 GABF gold medal winner, Bourbonic Plague. The base beer in this sour is an imperial porter brewed with cinnamon and vanilla and then aged in bourbon and wine barrels with lactobacillus. Overall, I thought this was a pretty impressive brew from Cascade. Definitely a heavy hitter at 12.1% ABV and the complexity on the tongue was fairly impressive. I thought the nose was overwhelmed by the alcohol, but the flavor delivered almost everything I was expecting. Lots chocolaty porter notes mixed with vanilla, cinnamon and tannic/grape oak. I would have liked to have seen a little more bourbon barrel in the blend, but the wine barrels still did a nice job. As usual, the lacto was on par with the rest of Cascade's brews and delivered a nice crisp acidic tang to the beer.

One of the last beers I'd like to note (besides the latest Hill Farmstead /Cigar City collaboration, which will be coming in the next post) is a 2005 vintage World Wide Stout from Dogfish Head (thanks JAHMUR). This beer is probably one of the oldest beers I've had, besides some the J.W. Lees Harvest Ales, and is a great example of what proper cellaring can do for some beers. World Wide Stout starts out with a lot of cellaring potential due to it's 18% ABV. Cracking a fresh bottle of this is still quite enjoyable, but has a lot of alcohol heat. However, after 5 years of aging, the alcohol virtually drops out of the flavor and you are left with a smooth, sweet, complex stout that serves as an excellent after dinner drink / dessert. The ABV will still catch up to you if you're not careful, but it goes down extremely easy. The only draw back with this amount of age is that the beer becomes rather sweet, so it's best to split a bottle with a few other people.

If you're interested in trying your hand at aging beers, then I would recommend Dogfish Head's World Wide Stout, J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, as well as Avery's The Beast. I had an '06 Beast a month or two ago and the beer had transformed from a decent Belgian Dark to a delicious English Barleywine. I've also got a 2007 Avery Mephistophele's Stout in the cellar along with a 2008-2010 vertical of Stone's Imperial Russian Stout and a 2009-2010 vertical of Stone's Double Bastard (strong ale). All of these beers should age well and I'll report back when I open them sometime down the road. In general, imperial stouts, barleywines, strong ales, gueuze, Belgain quads and a few other styles often cellar well and can even improve upon the fresh version of the beer.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


6:30. The earliest I've been home all week and then some!

I have to confess: we've mostly been eating out lately and by "out" I mean at the hospital where I work. Of those more notable meals, Au Bon Pain now has their Harvest Pumpkin soup back in rotation. John prefers the Old Fashioned Tomato. We can't all have good taste.

Speaking of pumpkins, two weekends ago between lab and lab I got out to the Cedar Circle pumpkin festival. Lots of children (eh, what can you do), beautiful weather, plenty of pumpkins. Incidentally, I witnessed multiple kids cry while standing in the pumpkin patch. As an adult, I find this physically impossible and so was fascinated. One toddler did manage to run headlong into a not-very-tall pumpkin still on the ground. Again, fascinating.

So many pumpkins...
...and other assorted cucurbits.
Without remembering the last time I've been to a pumpkin patch, it felt a lot like the days back in Pennsylvania where the onset of fall would incur multiple mandatory trips for my cousins and my family to Strawberry Acres for apples and pumpkins. As a kid, they even had a petting zoo. That place was the shit. Needless to say, we bought some pumpkins from Cedar Circle.

...but only after multiple thorough inspections. It takes a strong man to manage my pumpkins.
That afternoon before the night shift in lab, John took one of our prizes under the knife and I roasted the seeds. Apparently the key to keeping home-roasted fresh pumpkin seeds crisp is: don't store them in an airtight anything (like I did last year, witlessly). They are still going strong in the paper bag on my kitchen counter.

Other things that happened in the past two weeks:
  - A visit to Poverty Lane Orchards with Ben to walk the dog and pick some apples for a crisp and then some. Ben turned out to have an excellent nose for apples but unfortunately also an excellent appetite.
  - My brother's birthday celebration and the subsequent Whole Foods shopping trip, where fresh pumpkin tortellini and crab/lobster ravioli made it in the shopping cart for a quick dinner two nights later. I highly recommend the pumpkin tortellini with a brown butter and sage sauce blanche.
 - Tandem sicknesses that resulted in an acute lack of beer-drinking. Making up for this tonight has so far been fruitful.
- Non-coffee dates. I don't drink coffee now in a show of support, but make up for it on the stove-top with the occasional bitter spiced drinking chocolate which John will drink if it doesn't attack him first. Last Friday, venturing out to pick up birthday chocolate for my brother and salted caramels for my sister necessitated a stop at the Dirt Cowboy for something warm and liquid.

Hot Chocolate

The air on my run today smacked with a winter crispness. I anticipate many warm drinks to come.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Scratched out on notes form yesterday . . . Beautiful day! The sun is slowly setting and casting golden light upon the autumn colored trees. I'm currently finishing off a glass of Ephraim, which is one of the best beers I have ever had. Surely the best double IPA I have ever tasted. So smooth, 280 IBU and packed with citrus. This is amazing stuff and I still have half a growler left. Awesome.

The wind is carelessly blowing through the trees while I pull down the slow burn of a Cuban Romeo & Juliet. The smoke is filled with vanilla and tobacco. A good smoke to wind down the day with. Earlier, Jen and I had been climbing apple trees at Poverty Lane. We picked a few Cortlands while Ben scavenged the ground for fallen fruit. Jen currently has some apple crisp baking away in the oven and Ben is now on the hunt for acorns. I don't think a person gets too many days that are as perfect as this in their lifetime. Truly a great day to be alive.

A few more puffs of the R & J and I can feel the edge coming off of Ephraim, leaving me with only sweet pine citrus. Excellent. The smoke itself is still filled with vanilla, but seems to be picking up some dark fruits as well, mixed with wood. Kobe and Madden (Mayo's dogs) are having a good wrestle among the leaves. Madden's tail is quivering in the air as he tries to engage Kobe in another romp around the yard. The R & J is adding a bit of pepper to the smoke now. The warmth is nice against the cold autumn air. I currently have my dark blue flannel on, buttoned up about as far as it will go. The popped collar fights a cool breeze.

Ben has come back form his acorn hunt and now is interested in the last drops of Ephraim. I've never known another dog that was as interested in beer as Ben. Funny dog. I can smell the apple crisp now and see Jen putting together a homemade pepperoni pizza through the window. All is good.

The leaves on the trees are beautiful and the sun is low enough now that the golden light has faded. Shadows are casting and the breeze continues. A flock of geese call in the distance. Jen is calling me to come in for dinner as I walk past the mums with their golden yellow centers and fiery orange edges. Our lone pumpkin sits with deep orange, surrounded by fallen leaves, as I open the door.


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