Steamworks Pumpkin Ale

And we’re back with another Pumpkin Ale, which i have to admit, I was somewhat surprised to find. As far as I could tell, I still hadn’t scratched the surface on all the pumpkin beer that I already knew about. But apparently, there are some I never knew of. Case in point, Steamworks Pumpkin Ale, fresh from the brewery located in scenic Gastown in Downtown Vancouver.

Unlike most I’ve tried at this point, Steamwork’s has produced an ale that is brown in variety, as opposed to a Pale Ale which is far more common. In terms of color, the malts, and the toasty, tawny flavor, this beer is the perfect merger of a dark ale with pumpkin spice and zest. A true, all around fall ale, and perfect for my ongoing seasonal review series!

Appearance: Dark brownish-red, transparent, and low foam
Nose: Mixed array of spices, clove and nutmeg the most apparent, pumpkin malts
Taste: Immediate burst of cloves and spice, giving way to tawny malts reminiscent of brown ale
Aftertaste: Lingering taste of spices, cinnamon and nutmeg, mild bitterness
Overall: 9.5/10

And on a coincidental note, I will be in Vancouver this weekend for a football game. Go Lions! And I hope to get into the Steamworks for a little sampling, eats, and hopefully a nice chat with the brewery staff. They do good work, and I intend to tell them so!

Comfort Perogies!

Yesterday, my wife and I sat down to a dinner of perogies for the first time in awhile. And they were scrum-diddly-umptious! And it reminded me of my commitment to share ideas for comfort food and the beers that accompany them! So please consider a plate of cheese and potato perogies, paired with a light lager or pilsner as my next recommendation.

Now I’m not one for making perogies from scratch, but I plan to soon enough. In the meantime, a bag of frozen will do. However, if you should happen to have a Polish or Ukrainian grocer in your neighborhood that offers you the hand-made option, get on it! In the meantime, all you have to worry about is garnish preparation. And that’s where things can get creative!

Williams’ not-so-hand-made Perogies:
Of course, its common knowledge that perogies can be prepared any number of ways. Personally, I like my mine well cooked on the outside, but still soft and supple enough to cut with a fork. After some trial and error, I’ve found the boil first, fry second method works best. The boiling ensures that the skin and innards are cooked through, and frying them with the garnish gives them a slightly crispy, smoky, salty flavor.

1 pack perogies
4 strips of bacon

1 yellow or white onion
1 bunch green onions
small amount of butter

Slice bacon strips and add them to the pan, adding chopped onions once enough fat is present to cook them in. Stir well to prevent sticking, add perogies once the onions are soft. Add butter, and then stir regularly to prevent from sticking. Add green onions last and continue to stir. Remove from heat once all perogies are a nice, golden brown, the onions are soft and a little browned themselves and the bacon is nice and crispy. Serve with plenty of sour cream and dill!

As I said earlier, the best pairing for this dish seems to be a nice lager or pilsner. Perogies have a multilayered flavor that ranges from the subtle (cheese, potatoes) to the strong and zesty (onions, dill, sour cream and bacon). As a result, I feel a light beer that will not overwhelm the palate or compete with the flavor would be best. For this, I would highly recommend Hoyne’s Hoyner Pilsner or Creemore’s Premium Lager or Cameron’s Lager.

I say Hoyne’s first because it just happened to be what I was drinking at the time. And it was a per-diddly-erfect accompaniment!

Comfort Chili

As part of the fall season, I thought I might share some culinary ideas, specifically with regards to comfort food. For those of us who live in the more temperate regions of the planet, where Autumn is known to bring cold winds, darker days, and plenty of moisture that chills your bones, this is an essential area of knowledge!

And to start this list off right, I have decided to share the Williams’ family recipe for chili. I can’t tell you how many winters this food has gotten me through. Not only is it a warm, delicious meal that will stick to your bones and beat out the cold weather, it is also downright delicious, even when reheated. Yep, in addition to being awesome, it also keeps well and will continue to please for many servings.

Williams’ Signature Chili:
Now this is comfort food! For years my mother has been making what I still consider to be the best damn chili in the world. And though others cannot endorse this ruling, mainly out of loyalty to their own mothers and kin, they still admit that it’s damn good chili! And variations on the recipe are possible, but I generally make it a point not to stray. My wife insists that I add corn, carrots and potatoes to the mix, to which I reply in the resoundingly negative. Why? Because this isn’t stew! Veggies beyond beans, onions and garlic have no place in chili. You may disagree…

Anyhoo, here is the breakdown for a single pot. Adjust amounts based on how many you intend to serve, as this can be expected to provide multiple servings for at least two hungry people. For those with smaller appetites, I expect at least four people could eat from this and go back for some seconds. Enjoy!

1 can of beans (red kidney)
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste (sub soup if you’re so inclined)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minded
1 lb lean ground beef
sprinkle chili powder to taste

Combine garlic, onions, beef and chili powder in a large soup pot with a small amount of vegetable oil Cook until meat is browned and garlic and onions are softened. Add beans and tomatoes (including the liquid from the can), then add tomato paste/soup. Stir frequently and add chili powder to taste, and consider adding Sriracha sauce, chili flakes or Tabasco to add heat. Serve with buttered, crusty bread to sop up the liquid, and be prepared for a major case of ITIS!

Beer Pairing:
And of course, how could I, the GCBS, consider this recipe complete if I did not mention some fitting beers to accompany it? Well, beer and chili aren’t exactly a match made in heaven, I’ll admit. But when it comes to the various flavor and textures of this food, I would have to recommend a beer that goes down clean, or provides a smooth tawny stimulation. What’s more, hot food usually demands a beer that is either best served cold and which is crisp and refreshing, and/or something that has gentle malts and doesn’t contain too much in the way of hops. Otherwise, your tongue will be a battleground of competing flavors and stimuli, which won’t work out too well in the end.

Hence, I would have to recommend either a good clean lager or a nice smooth stout. A brown ale can do in a pinch as well, provided its not heavily hopped and nice and tawny. My personal favorites would be Naramata Nut Brown Ale, St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, or VIB Iron Plow Marzen. In short, a fall beer for a fall dish! Again, these are merely suggestions, and the culinary world is built on experimentation. If you’ve got variations on this recipe and the pairing, please feel free to share them with me. And please let me know if the following recipe and pairing suggestions works out for you!

Until next time, keep warm, stay dry, and never go to bed hungry or thirsty! Winter is just around the corner…

Mad Bruin Sour Brown Ale

Driftwood is back with it’s second release in the “Bird of Prey” series! And this time around, its a sour brown ale made in the Belgian fashion of Oud Bruin (Old Brown) ale. Fans of this series, or those who have a very good memory and just happen follow this blog , will no doubt remember that last fall, they came out with their Flanders Red – a sour ale made in much the same fashion.

Suffice it to say, their Flanders Red was one of the best all around beers I have ever had, balancing authenticity with complexity of flavor and drinkability. Granted, your non-beer drinkers might find it somewhat inaccessible, but there is an awful lot there to appeal to the discerning beer drinker! Much the same is true of the Mad Bruin, which is also made using the same strain of Belgian yeast and aged in oak barrels for 16 months before being bottled and shipped.

The end result of all this is a complex, flavorful beer that has a high concentration of lactic acid, making it quite sour on the tongue. At the same time, the oak barrel aging process allows for notes of flavor that are not unlike a nice, dry red wine. Many different types of tart, sweet fruits are discernible in the nose and palate as well, contributing to a flavor that is both well suited to food pairing and enjoyable on its own.

Appearance: Deep brown/orange, translucent and low foam
Nose: Strong notes of dry red wine, oak and tart fruits
Taste: Immediate burst of sour cherry, plum, oaky, and earthy tones
Aftertaste: Lingering sourness, finishing with a slight touch of bitter
Overall: 9.5/10

Alongside your basic pumpkin ales, I would say sour ale is the perfect fall beer. Perhaps it’s just the deep, gratifying taste or the fact that it reminds me of fall fruit and autumn leaves, but the taste, smell and all around profile of it just feels conducive to autumn weather. Much like the Flanders Red, I plan to secure as many bottles of these as possible before the season is out, and look forward to 2014 when the wife and I will be making the trip to the Flanders region itself! But more on that later…

Hoyne’s Voltage Espresso Stout

It’s here! The other limited release that Hoyne and company promised has been released! And as promised, it is an espresso stout, known by its full name Voltage Espresso Stout. And this time around, unlike that little misfire with the Wolf Vine Pale Ale, I arrived in time to get some fresh from the tap! No bottles for me… not until the growler is finished I mean.

And as usual, the beer is pretty fantastic. As I learned from the staff while getting my growlers filled, the espresso which gives Voltage Espresso it’s character comes from the local coffee shop known as Habit. As a Victorian, I can attest that it too is an awesome operation, and it’s good to see independent businesses coming together like this. The Espresso beans are also roasted right up the road from a brewery, and then infused into the beer on site. Talk about a local operation!

Oh, and the name, I imagine, requires some explanation. It goes without saying that the people at Hoyne like to give their beers meaningful monickers. Dark Matter Dark Lager, Devil’s Dream IPA, Summer Haze Hefeweizen, and now this. Apparently, the name is a tribute to the beer’s “polarity”, meaning it’s ranking on the color, hops and malt scales Hoyne employs with all their beers. On the one hand, it is at the far end of the spectrum when it comes color and malts, but at the other end when it comes to hop content. So basically this is a “bipolar” beer, kind of like an electrical current? Interesting…

Appearance: Very deep brown, clear and slightly transparent, mild foam
Nose: Strong notes of coffee and roasted malts
Taste: Slight tang and bitterness giving way to notes of real espresso coffee
Aftertaste: Lingering notes of espresso, mild bitterness
Overall: 9/10

You know, this kind of success rate is beginning to get annoying, Hoyne. If I keep doing reviews like this, people are going to think I’m getting kickbacks or something. Speaking of kickbacks, I wouldn’t be averse to being plied with plenty of free beer. But of course, that willingness might be interpreted as a sign of quality… Quite the conundrum! 😉

Iron Plow Harvest Marzen

Hello and welcome back to the Fall Beer series! After a brief diversion to sample a new brewery, well new to me (Parallel 49), I’m back on the seasonal beer horse! And the beer in question is Vancouver Island Brewery’s Iron Plow Harvest Marzen, a pale lager that commemorates the end of the summer harvest and the beginning of the fall season.

And much like many of their other limited release or seasonal beers, I was quite happy with this one. Not only was it a pleasant drinking experience, it confirms that Vancouver Island is once again excelling at craft brewing, making small batch, high-quality beer that has good flavor and is faithful to the best in brewing traditions.

Appearance: Light orange hue, clear and low foam
Nose: Mild hop aroma, slightly sweet, mild notes of honey
Taste: Light creamy malts, tangy and slight minerality, mild bitterness
Aftertaste: Clean and refreshing finish, mild bitterness
Overall: 8.5/10

I’ve now sampled this beer a total of five times and still find myself still going back for more. But that’s the thing with a good, refreshing Marzen lager. They get the job done and go very well with food, especially the kind of spicy or warm, comfort food that goes so well with dreary fall weather and cold, early evenings!

FYI, this is my 100th post as the GCBS! Cheers!

Parallel 49 Brewing!

parallel49_labelsA Vancouver-based operation, Parallel 49 is a relatively new brewery, but is quickly growing in popularity. They only recently got on my radar thanks to their seasonal Lost Souls  Chocolate Pumpkin Porter. And thanks to the BCL, who is now purveying their sample pact, I managed to get my hands on every beer in their lineup.

This includes their Old Boy Classic Ale, the Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale, the Hoparazzi India Pale Lager, and the new Seedspitter Watermelon Wit. Quite the ambitious variety, and it certainly shows a preference for experimentation on behalf of the brewers. Needless to say, I was both intrigued and ambivalent when I picked up the pack, but was pleasantly surprised by the time I had sampled them all. Here’s what my taste buds and other senses had to say.

Old Boy Classic Ale:
A traditional British ale, malty, smooth, and low in hop content (25 IBUs). The appearance is deep brown and clear while the scent is reminiscent of toffee and caramelized sugar. It comes on with mildly sweet and tawny malts, finishing with a light touch of caramel sweetness. A very smooth and subtle ale, clean drinking and quite pleasant. 8.5/10

Gypsy Tears Ruby Ale:
A twist on the traditional pale ale, this “ruby” combines dark malts with west coast hops and dry hopping to produce a complex and layered ale. Dark red in appearance, clear, and boasting a mild, floral aroma, the flavor comes on strong with a burst of citrus hops, moving on to a lingering dry hop flavor. There are also discernible malts that augment the hop finish with a slightly coarse aftertaste. A very appealing new beer and a welcome addition to my favorite pales! 9/10

Hoparazzi IPL:
Another twist on a classic, this so-called India Pale Lager, combines the attributes of a golden lager with some of the more strong characteristics of an IPA. This includes alcohol content (6% alc/vol) and hop content (50 IBUs). Nevertheless, the character is still distinctly that of a lager, with the color a gold-orange and the nose grassy. The taste, while slightly more bitter than your average lager, with notes of grapefruit that linger into the aftertaste. Not sure this was an ideal combination, but the result is still pleasantly refreshing and clean. 8/10

Seedspitter Watermelon Wit:
Now here’s a twist I never would have considered. It’s a well established tradition to combine wheat beer with fruit, but a watermelon wheat? Suffice it to say, it comes through in the flavor. Golden-white in color and translucent, the beer has a strong scent of watermelon and wheat malts. The flavor is much the same, starting with a strong burst of fruit and giving way to a clean, malty finish. 8/10

Not bad Parallel 49. Not bad at all. A rather interesting combination of flavors and styles. I think it’s fair to say that I will be following your exploits with some interest from now on.

Granville Island Saison

Not too long ago, I made a point of mentioning the fact that Granville Island had jumped on the limited release train, as a means of getting back to their craft brewing roots. And yet, I feel like I haven’t properly acknowledged this wonderful trend, by trying everything they’ve put out.

Not exactly a short order, but I have been keeping my eyes open just as soon as I came to realize that this was a recurring thing. And this is what popped: their Saison, a Belgian-style farmhouse that marked the late summer season. And as it is currently going out of style, I thought I’d better scoop one up before moving on to their pumpkin ale (which I’m overdue to try!).

In short, I was impressed. I’ve come to expect a high degree of quality from Granville Island with their seasonal and limited releases, but this beer genuinely reminded me of one of my all-time favorites. Much like Chimay Red, it possesses a flavor that is both peppery and reminiscent of oak, something undeniably Belgian in character.

Appearance: Yellow-orange hue, cloudy and high foam
Nose: Spicey, hints of orange and coriander
Taste: Distinctly Belgian flavor, notes of oak and pepper
Aftertaste: Smooth finish, slight bitterness and peppery, but well rounded
Overall: 9/10

Not bad, Granville! After expressing some disdain over the fate of your regular lineup, you have effectively rekindled my interest with your craft beers. And given that there are currently 11 beers in their inventory of limited releases, I have some thirsty work ahead of me!

Parallel 49 Lost Souls Chocolate Pumpkin Porter

Welcome back to another installment in the Fall beer series! Today, I’m fortunate enough to deliver a double-whammy! Not only is this next beer a pumpkin seasonal ale, it’s also the first brew from Parallel 49 that I have ever tried. A Vancouver based operation, this craft brewery has been making waves of late with such items as its “Seed Spitter” Watermelon Ale, and their variety pack that includes samples all of their regular lineup.

And when it comes down to it, Lost Souls was a pretty creative addition. Combining the elements of a seasonal pumpkin with a chocolate porter, they essentially created a beer that is both Halloween and Thanksgiving desert in a glass. Smooth, toasty, and slightly sweet, it is a well rounded beer with plenty of appeal.

Appearance: Deep, dark brown, thick, high gravity, low foam
Nose: Rich notes of coffee and cocoa
Taste: Immediate burst of toasted, tawny malts, slight sweetness of pumpkin
Aftertaste: Mild bitterness, lingering notes of espresso and chocolate
Overall: 8/10

In truth, this beer really didn’t possess that much of a pumpkin flavor to it. Nevertheless, the balance it struck between coffee, chocolate and sweet malts was quite pleasing. In addition, I can see it going well as a final course in a Thanksgiving meal, accompanying pie and/or a range of chocolate desserts. Check it out while it’s still available.

Phillips Crooked Tooth Pumpkin Ale

You know it’s officially autumn when three things come together. One, cold weather. Two, the leaves start to turn that lovely combination of yellow, red and orange. And three, craft brewers begin to ship the pumpkin ale. And in honor of this season, I intend to spend it sampling as many seasonal beers as possible.

These will include brown ales, Oktoberfest lagers, and most importantly, pumpkin ale! Nothing says fall, thanksgiving or Halloween like a pumpkin in a glass. And if it should come at 5% alc/vol, then so much the better! And to start things off right, I selected a brewery notorious for their seasonal and limited release beers, Phillips Crooked Tooth!

Appearance: Golden-orange, slightly cloudy
Nose: Strong hints of pumpkin and clove spice
Taste:Slightly sweet malts, traces of pumpkin pie, cloves and nutmeg
Aftertaste: Slight bitterness, lingering flavor of clove spice
Overall: 8.5/10

Overall, I was impressed with the flavor of this particular pumpkin ale. It was flavorful without being overpowering, the malts were sweet but not too sweet, and the spice palate was highly appropriate. All in all, a fitting accompaniment to turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, or just plenty of sugary snacks!