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.