One and a Half Men :: 3 Beers and some Fine Eats

by Harvey Gold on February 8, 2011

This Harvey and Dave Session was rolled out over three days on our facebook page in the beginning of February. For those of you who don’t do facebook, here’s the blow by blow:

Shot and a Beer

The Shot: Caol Ila Single Malt Scotch
The Beer: Fade to Black from Left Hand Brewing

As all Islays do, Caol Ila brings the heat and the peat. This one, however, is a lighter whiskey with floral and peppery notes upfront and little else to mess with.  Because of its smooth and lower profile,  it’s used generously in blends produced by Johnny Walker and Black Bottle.

This year’s version of Fade to Black is a Smoked Baltic Porter, giving us the idea for the match up, as while haters think peat in an Islay tastes like a topical medicine smells, to those of us who know what the Hell is going on, it’s a true smoke from the earth…er…dirt.

With the shot of scotch and our first sip, the porter (which is black as night) offered a sweet round off, contrasting yet extending the flavor and vapors of the scotch.

Sip #2 showed the Left Hand to be delightfully creamy with a sweet touch giving way to bitter.

On the third sip of beer, the bite of the strong whiskey receded enough to give way to a darker smokiness from the brew, something very different from that found in the peat. As a shot and a beer, great contrast/complement.

In continuation, this Smoked Baltic Porter, made with (among others) Hackberry smoked malt and a chocolate malt, put a sweetness on the back of the tongue, much like the Breckenridge red vanilla bean in their Vanilla Porter does … but different. A singular and special beer.

Vital stats:
Last year’s Fade to Black was a Foreign Stout @ 8.5%ABV
This year’s Porter weighs in at 7.8% ABV

Can the Can Can?

Buried Hatchet Stout from Southern Star Brewing Company. Conroe, Texas.

Described as a Strong American Stout, in a can… no judgements. Too much being argued about it. We’re just tasting the brew today. And unless we can compare to a bottle or a draw, we’ll just start by saying this is a Big Bad Stout.

Upon popping the tab, however, even though it sat in the fridge for quite some time and on the counter for about 10-15 minutes to warm a tiny bit, it frothed out. My hand (not the glove), smelled of chocolate… so much so I wasn’t sure if there was anything else present to detect.

Pouring black with a tan head that held on and on, the flavor of chocolate was present on every part of the tongue. It even left a gritty texture on the tongue, giving the impression that there was residual Baker’s chocolate left at the end of the sip.

Dave was thinking smoky. I became so overwhelmed by it, my take was that the bitter came not from the hops, but the unsweetened chocolate. Dave concluded, and I think I agree, that rather than smoke, we were tasting roasted malt here. For my part, I didn’t detect enough hops in the presentation to attribute the bitterness to them.

Tasting it as it warmed presented no new flavors. We like this stout a LOT, It’s really delicious, but we also think that it should be, for the sake of truth in advertising, called a double-triple-quadruple chocolate stout.

The last sip gave us the sense that there might be a milk chocolate component but we have no idea what ingredients would do that. The brewer doesn’t make ANY reference to chocolate, excepting the note that the smell is of chocolate and toffee, and uses only a single hop, Saphir, one that generally has a super fruity flavor attributed to it. We didn’t taste it, so you tell us what this means. You can get more details at their site, but nope, they’re keeping us guessing on the chocolate business.

Dave offered “At $11 a 4-pack, this better be good… and it absolutely is.”

We should also, when looking at the growing use of cans for premium crafted brews, note that Southern Star is teamed up with Let’s Recycle to work towards EPA certifcation as they look to, ultimately, recycle ALL waste from the brewery. Good for them!

Looking forward to trying more of their offerings.

Eat Drink and be Very (Bad Elf)

Dolli’s Chili w. Very Bad Elf, from Ridgeway Brewing, Oxfordshire, UK

In our session we were going to do the Elf Series from Ridgeway. But as dinner approached and we needed an appropriate brew, preferably some sort of Pale Ale to pair with Dolli’s turkey chili, at least for Dave and me, hot sauce liberally added, here is where  we found ourselves.

Admittedly, we have Bell’s Hopslam in the YBN fridge but
a) we’ve written about it, and b) missed an opportunity last night when we paired that with a spicy Asiago/spinach chicken sausage, potato and cheddar  pierogis with carmelized onions, and garlic-touched quick-sautéed string  beans. Awesome… but with no pix to accompany, we didn’t make it a post. Reason c) would be we don’t want to appear to be too taken with Hopslam (which we  are).

So we find ourselves with what Ridgeway calls a “Special Reserve Ale.” It’s, for everyone else’s sake, a British Pale Ale with a 7.5% ABV.

At first blush, there was little to write about, but this session has had big, really distinctive beers, Dave taking a minute to try this year’s Hopslam for the first time, so just being good could be a death sentence today.

Shaking our heads briskly and determined to be as objective as we could, we first noted VBE poured a nice amber with a big white head, and showed lovely lacing.

It wasn’t until we started eating when Very Bad Elf came to life. At the end of this we’ll publish the recipe for the chili (very simple, very delicious), but much is in the prep of the dish. We, in this family, lay a base in the bowl of regular sized Fritos, We then ladel out the chili, add shredded Mexican cheese, chopped onion, a nice dollop of sour cream, and your choice of hot sauces–yours truly, tonight, using Cholula Chili Garlic sauce–generously.

We accompanied this with Jiffy corn bread mix. Dolli adds a nice handful of fresh or thawed frozen corn. The recipe on the box also calls for one egg. THIS FAMILY puts in two. Adding some chopped Jalapeno suits some folks. The corn bread is often buttered.

At the very first real bite, Very Bad Elf started to show why it belonged on the table. The nose was very floral. I was thinking even lavender. For a beer that seemed to present almost as does a run of the mill wheat beer at first, this showed a surprising nose. As we went along, though, we found it to be a good pairing on two counts. Not a heavy beer, even with this ABV, it proved to have the lightness, in this context, of a session beer, and served as a nice, unimposing thirst quencher. Second, it revealed a nice bitter edge on the back end, which worked well to keep the spicy, pungent eats from completely taking over and reducing this beer to playing the role of a glass of water.

Funny, as I sniff the bottle 30 minutes later, I’m overwhelmed by spice, maybe a little cinnamon. I tasted what was left in my glass, much warmer now, finding this recipe (dating back to 1795), using Fuggles Hops, to be a sweet beer, reminding me of some of the spicier beers that also come during the holidays. Don’t have any idea why these sweet, nutty flavors didn’t make themselves known earlier but this may have been the taster’s lacking, and/or a pairing wrongly constructed… maybe. Or maybe it has to be this warm to show it’s other, perhaps more interesting self.

We’ll save the lighter Bad Elf, and the Criminally Bad (Barleywine) Elf for a later check out.

For the chili recipe, hit the DolliMama’s Vintage Warehouse
http://dollimama.blogspot.com

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Totally Cooked Dante from the Half-Baked Brewers in Oh February 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Good afternoon hop heads!

Harvey and Dave, This looks like an awesome excuse to take a break more often and start soliciting the micro brewers from around the world to ship out samples, go live in the Totally Cooked kitchens and host monthly schvitzes with the boys!
Reach out when you can, no I didn’t mean to peel you off the floor, let’s talk! Ciao! Dante

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Harvey February 10, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Dante… we will most assuredly be back in touch. Ideas abound.

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