Saturday, April 17, 2010

Those Neglected Brits: Fuller's ESB

I want to learn more about European beverage styles! I've had a few German styles and Belgian styles but there are so many different ones! Bocks, Bitters, Biers, Weizens, Dunkels, Heavys, Guezes. Lots to learn! And to drink, sheesh! I feel like I've neglected the Brits, and I'd like to change that.
Fuller's is cool for a couple of reasons, besides their beer. They are old school, brewing since 1845 in "traditional family style." They also brew at the "Griffin brewery," meaning there is a sweet griffin on their labels. I've tried their London Porter before and enjoyed it. So I picked up this Fuller's ESB, which stands for Extra Special Bitter.
It is my understanding, more or less, that Bitter Ales are similar to Pale Ales. They tend to be low in alcohol and high in hops. Extra Special Bitters are higher in alcohol and more balanced. Fuller's ESB is 5.9% alcohol in the bottle.This pint sized bottle poured a very lovely clear reddish-brown/amber with a small but solid white head. The head receded slowly and left thick rings of lace. The smell was mild but dominated by sweet malts. I took a drink...And several more. Wow! Strong sweet caramel malts along with a bitter layer of hops and a touch of spice. Sweetness dominated at first but it ended bitter, making this a nicely balanced ale. It was smooth, light, refreshing, and tasty. I had to keep myself from chugging this. Delicious! If I get the chance to try a pint of this at a British pub I will do so with gusto. A-

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cooking With Beer: Stout Brownies

So I've been reading and watching stuff about beer for a while now, and finding it increasingly interesting as I go. Right now cooking with beer and pairing craft beer with food in fine dining situations is "hot." I've seen a couple of "wine vs beer" debates (scroll down for one clip from the authors of "He Said Beer, She Said Wine."

In a local beer rag they always print a recipe using beer. I've read of recipes using things like rabbit, leeks, figs, pork belly, thyme, fennel, porcini...Basically things I'd probably never attempt. (But never say never!) Prior to this hard-core research of mine, I've only heard of Beer Butt Chicken. (That picture makes me wanna barf). But as I was getting ready to have a nice Russian Imperial Stout from Hoppin Frog in Ohio, I thought "brownies!" The only recipes I could find were to make brownies from scratch, which I was not up for. So I had to "fudge" the measurements, if you will.
1 box brownie mix
2 eggs
1 cup stout
Bake 'n Eat.
The result? Pretty yum! A little more "cake-like" than "fudge-like" but still nice and chewey. The stout flavor came through more than I expected, adding a nice edge of bitterness and richness to the brownies, so they weren't just straight-up chocolate. Next time I'd probably go nuts and make them from scratch - I'm sure its worth it. But this was cool...More "cooking" with beer (hey, maybe next time real cooking with no quotation marks) to come!

Another Saison: Victory's Helios

So I tried my first Saison not long ago and was interested in trying another! I found this 22 oz bottle of Helios from Victory Brewing in PA at the quite reasonable price of $2.99. The label was so friendly and welcoming - a smiling sun in a glass! Delightful! As I opened it there was a loud PFFFFFT and the lovely smell filled the room and carbonation filled the glass as I poured. The head was massive and fluffy. It lasted forever and left puffs of lace all over the glass. The liquid was cloudy yellow with small yeast sediments. And the smell! I don't think I have the strongest sense of smell. But oh man...There were some powerful esters going in this guy! Spicy pepper, Belgian yeast, grassy hops, mildly sweet malts, lemon...Delightful!And Helios was very tasty as well! Belgian yeast, some spice, lemon, a bit of grass. Kind of reminded me of a white wine at times. Dry -- leaves you wanting more! And more! As it warmed the spices and sour flavor stood out to me more. Even at 7.5% alcohol, I did not detect it in the taste.

Also as it warmed the carbonation stayed extremely huge. I even had a carbonation overflow during my second pour. Not sophisticatd!

The mouthfeel was very light on the tongue, and extremely crisp to the point of almost feeling sharp as I swallowed. I just typed that without laughing, by the way. Okay, maybe a little.

I REALLY liked this. Saisons are supposed to pair well with lots of food. I ate some "flavor x-treme" cheddar goldfish with this and thought it was excellent. Sour, crisp ale and salty, cheesey crackers? It's good for me!!