Giving Thanks

Many blessings fill our lives, and we use this time of year to recognize those gifts and give thanks for what we’ve been given. 

I’m sure many of you reading this have some of the same things to be thankful for that I do, so you probably aren’t interested in hearing about mundane (yet very meaningful) things I am thankful for.  So here are two very new things that have come into my life, for which I am very thankful!

My Mayflower Martini  1) My Mayflower Martini

After we got the dressing and sides made, the turkey in the oven and the table set up (it was so lovely, we ate outside!), I decided to get my shower.  Finishing up, there was a knock on the door…”Mayflower Martini?!?!”  My sister found this fabulous recipe, and treated us all to a most wonderful holiday beverage. 

I am not a fan of gin, but the juniper is balanced by the sweet white cranberry and/or the vermouth.  The flavor is earthy and gentle – the beverage is smooth and easy to drink.  I liked it so much I’m going to post the recipe here in case the link ever dies…

2 teaspoons sweet vermouth
Ice cubes
1 part gin
2 parts white cranberry juice
Whole cranberries on toothpicks, to garnish

Pour 1 teaspoon of sweet vermouth into each martini glass; swirl glass to coat and pour out excess. Set aside.

Fill a martini shaker with ice cubes.

Pour 1 part gin and 2 parts white cranberry juice. Shake vigorously. Pour into martini glasses.

Serve chilled with a garnish of whole cranberries.

Thanks to my sister for this wonderful discovery.  Perhaps it’s a new holiday tradition? 

My big surprise of the night was D showing up!  He was working, and not supposed to be at our Thanksgiving, but he traveled for almost two hours (round trip) before going in to work the night shift, and it wasn’t just for the stuffing…  The first in a series of growler trades arrived on Wednesday night, and he was so thoughtful to bring it to share with me.

Hollister Hip Hop DIPA  2) Hollister Hip Hop DIPA   Enjoying DIPA

This was an easy-drinking beer for 8.9% ABV.  It came out of a beautiful rounded glass growler and poured an orange-golden color (side-by-side with Hop Wallop, they were the same hue!)  It had a bright flowery nose and a piney citrus flavor.  This was a lovely IPA, and I was sad to see the last drops pour.

Thanks, again, to D for making such an effort to share it.  True – I wouldn’t have known what I was missing, but now I have even more to be thankful for!

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I Miss the Wind and À l’Abri de la Tempête

It’s disappointing to me that I was unable to keep pace with the blog this summer – we visited so many wonderful places, and had so many special beer experiences on our travels through New England, Atlantic Canada and the maritimes.  But an email from our dear acquaintance, Majorie, sparked my interest in making an update to a previous post.

I’m missing the wind today – the constant gusts of pure and perfect air blowing in from the large masses of of water that surround the Magdalene Islands (Îles de la Madeleine.)  This windswept archipelago of remote, beautiful, and amazingly unique islands is located 130 miles off the main coast of Quebec in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

Majo sent a photo of a new addition to À l’Abri de la Tempête (A Shelter from the Storm) on Île du Cap aux Meules – metal sculptures which she described as “planted in the wind” just outside the brewery – and it took my breath away.  You can’t imagine the wind on the Magdalene Islands, but I picked up on it in this photo.

Sculptures                 Flag

The Magdalene Islands are a combination of six islands connected by sandy beaches that stretch great lengths, and six additional islands (one of which is inhabited) and islets, many with high, red cliffs. 

I could go on and on about the colorful houses, welcoming inhabitants, charming artisan shops, and superb restaurants full of seafood and other fresh, local flavors.  We enjoyed birding with a local, walking the beaches, exploring the forests, meeting “Substitute Myna” (the benchmark hunting dog), boat trips to Entry Island and Isle Brion, picnics in the rain, watching kitesurfers, staying at sweet B&Bs, camping and exploring.

But this is a blog about beer travels, so I’ll stick to what I know and suggest everyone visit the tourism pages (or don’t…we really like that this is our secret place to visit!)  This was our second trip to the island (our first was in 2002; I believe the dates of this visit were July 18-24.)

                               Me outside “Shelter”

À l’Abri de la Tempête is located at the tip of Plage de l’Ouest (an 8-mile beach) on Île du Cap aux Meules (on Ch. Coulombe, L’Étang-du-Nord.)  It’s a converted fish processing plant, which, I know, sounds awful, but brewer Jean-Sébastien Bernier has done a fabulous job converting this plain building into a warm, welcoming and incredibly unique place to enjoy a pint.  It is the first, and currently the only, microbrewery on the Islands, and relies on fresh, local ingredients for production.

While much of the conversation and facts may have been lost in translation (the primary language is French with an Acadian flair, so there was a strong barrier for us), I believe that Jean-Sébastien not only created all of the lovely beer recipes, but also created the beautiful woodwork and unique tap system used to dispense his beers (there is another partner, Anne-Marie Lechance, mentioned in one article, but we didn’t meet her so I don’t know her contribution to the process.) 

Inside À l’Abri de la Tempête                     The View

There were four microbrews on tap during our visit, and they were all available not only at the pub in the brewery, but all four were also available at the restaurants for which they are named.  There was also a beer available in unmarked (therefor not available for take-out) bottles.  Here is what we tasted:

Écume Bière des Îles – Beer of the Islands – a light lager available in bottles as well as on tap.

La Pas Perdus– rousse/red – described as a Vienna lager; not very interesting but certainly not bad.

Le Vieux Couvent– a blonde made with spices and herbs; light and refreshing on those hot island days (one review, which I ran in the Google translator said, “A beer that will you rinse the slab after your next sunburn” – I don’t know what that means, but it makes me laugh!)

La Grave– described at the brewery as a “noire,” but I’ve seen it listed as a milk stout and would agree with that; a thin stout, but still held up to chocolate cake!

Corne de Brume – Scotch Ale (bottled only); this was absolutely our favorite – dark ruby red and malty – best served just below room temperature.  We particularly enjoyed it along with a small bowl of smoked herring fillets.  Oakes Weekly rated it Best New Beer of the Year in 2006!  Beer Advocate says it’s retired, but D posted an update today (a new run of 5000 bottles last week.)  Rate Beer puts it in the 99th percentile.

                      Corne de Brume

Now, when I say tasted, I really mean we had many pints at À l’Abri de la Tempête over the course of our week-long visit.  They sell a handled mason jar with their logo, which can be used for “take-out” (they don’t fill growlers, but these mason jars come with lids, so we were able to take a jar of beer each with us for our daily picnic on the beach.)  Also, each time we brought our jar in empty, we got $1 off our fills.

Le Vieux Couvent to Go           Taps     Shelter During the Storm

The people who worked there were all great, but we were particularly fond of Majorie as she gave us great advice about our visit, insight to life on the Islands and was an absolutely delightful and interesting person.  We were particularly amazed to learn about her “other life” as a glass artist.  The only website I found with examples of her work just doesn’t do it justice.  She makes some amazingly unique and beautiful glass sculpture, and I think of her daily when I admire my glass ball ornament now hanging in our kitchen window.

                     The Pour              Menu

In typical Magdalene Island fashion, the menu included all foods from the islands.  Locally produced cheese, smoked herring, seal and seasonal vegetables, fruits and flowers could be among the things found on a snack plate.  There were also handmade glass mugs and soaps available for purchase.

Well, obviously, I could go on, but À l’Abri de la Tempête really a place you need to discover for yourself.

A piece of advice: If you visit this brewpub, don’t go on as part of a tour bus, and if you can avoid it, don’t go when a tour bus is visiting.  We found the evenings to be particularly enjoyable.

Just Missed St. Nick (and other Pittsburgh news)

On November 10, the first forum postings on St. Nick’s Brewer’s Reserve began to appear on Beer Advocate.  I tried to pick this up at Penn Brewing on November 9 – my last day in the city – and was told it wasn’t available yet.  Missed by one day?!?!  I even explained that I was from out of town…  It comes in 750 ml bottles that are corked and foiled, a red velvet bag, and described as a barleywine.  But, sadly, I don’t have one.

Also missed – Quadzilla (Cherry Quad) at Church Brew Works – but not nearly as disappointing since there is a bottle in our basement.  They also said “coming soon.”  Not soon enough!

But the trip wasn’t a full disappointment.   There was the work side…a professionally fulfilling and extremely educational experience (which I will blog about elsewhere!) and then there was the beer side.

My co-workers were honestly excited about stopping at D’s Six Pax & Dogz in Swissvale, where we explored (and purchased from) the Beer Cave and had a happy hour pint with an appetizer.  Around the table, we had Left Hand Milk Stout, Magner’s Irish Cider, Great Divide Fresh Hop, and “I’m sorry, I can’t remember” Pale Ale.  I ate a Veggie Dog, and it was delicious in a hot-dog sort of way.

We had dinner one night at Church Brew Works where we drank Ichabod’s Revenge (Pumpkin Stout), ThunderHop IPA (11th Anniversary Ale) and Pious Monk Dunkel.  All of the dinners were terrific:

  • I had Asian marinated tofu tossed with crispy seared oriental vegetables served atop a bed of bamboo rice, and coworkers had
  • grilled center cut pork chop served with an Asiago risotto cake, grilled plum tomatoes and balsamic reduction,
  • buffalo and wild mushroom loaf with garlic mashed potatoes, and
  • chargrilled salmon with a tahini and fresh dill rub served with chargrilled vegetables and fried leeks. 

Pumpkin cheesecake and frozen yogurt (made in conjunction with Dave & Andy’s) made for happy endings!  We also enjoyed observing the anticipation of election results for (winner) Patrick Dowd as his supporters gathered at Church Brewing.

A huge surprise was The Library on E. Carson Street. 

                          The Library - Street Sign   The Library Menu

We went there based on the website (self-promotion), and can say they are right on the mark!  The atmosphere was perfect – Golden Book Encyclopedias for our beer menu, a card catalog in the corner – and the tap and bottle list were satisfying (Chris and I had a Mojo Hazed & Infused, one person had Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout on draft, and another had a bottle of Avery Karma.)  For dinner,

  • the people on either side of me had The Fisherman and His Wife – pretzel crusted salmon served atop fingerling potatoes and a mustard cream sauce;
  • I had what they described as striped bass fillet seared and served with crab meat, vanilla cream sauce, and asparagus risotto (but I never saw or tasted the crab and maybe tasted vanilla cream sauce in the risotto – not really obvious);
  • also at our table was Tyler Durden –ribeye steak topped with gorgonzola accompanied by rosemary redskin smash and Julius Caesar – a Caesar salad. 

Another night we went out to Morton’s Steak House (on the vendor’s dime!) where the wine was served in Riedel stemware, the filet mignon was as bigger than my fist, and the desserts were outstanding.  Unfortunately, they have every domestic beer you can imagine, but nothing in the realm of microbrews (to their credit, they do not mention beer on the website or menu.)  The staff were so gracious – that had to be my favorite part – but, of course, I didn’t see the bill.  I’m sure they got paid well to be so nice!

Morton’s Menu

Other misses on this trip (which I’ve experienced, but wanted to share with the coworkers):

Between a busy, busy conference and the great beers we found while we were out, there was no need to bring in the cooler (I don’t recall having a break, other than one hour which we used to visit Saks 5th Avenue where they served cookies and cappuccino – ahh, to have a real department store!)

Cleaning Out the Basement

We’ve had a friend in town for the week, and on Thursday evening, while sitting at the Brewhouse Grille enjoying Russian River Pliny the Elder, D turned to me and said, “Let’s have a party – tomorrow night!”  And so we did…

We called a few friends – some who were free and unfortunately, some who were not – and picked up the worst of the clutter.  Jerry brought veggies from his organic garden in Venango County (romaine, celery, shallots, red onions, acorn squash), so D whipped up a salad and put together a great stew in the crockpot (I turned the squash into a fabulous soup for Saturday at the hawkwatch.)  

We thawed out a loaf of Zingerman’s farm bread.  D went to Wegman’s for cheese, olives and the like, and he scoured our basement looking for a few prize bottles of beer, as well as a few certain to please the palates of our intended guests.
Smoked Porter
This resulted in a great group of friends from birding, beer drinking and concerts gathered around our table for hearty food and a lengthy tasting.  Below is a complete list of the bottles opened for the table tasting:

  • Russian River Brewing – Damnation
  • Brouwerij Het Anker – Gouden Carolus ~ Carolus D’Or– Grand Cru Of The Emperor(brewed once a year, on the 24th of February, birthday of Charles the Fifth)
  • Alaskan Brewing Co. IPA
  • AleSmith IPA
  • Butte Creek Organic Revolution 10th Anniversary Imperial IPA
  • Moylans Hopsickle Imperial Ale (Triple Hoppy)
  • Cisco Celebration Libation (no year at the moment…no active website found)
  • Alaskan Brewing Co. Smoked Porter * (2006; yummy with nova lox and bread)
  • AlesSmith Speedway Stout
  • Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout

The only disappointment of the night was Victory V-Ten (brewed and bottled September 12, 2002) – this beer was corked, caged and carious (I know…that word applies to teeth, but it sounds good here!)  This was, unfortunately not well aged, which resulted in a big bottle of vinegar.

D and the Line-Up

And of course, we poured several other interesting things – bottles for individuals to enjoy.  We also tasted boilo (boilo : a popular homemade Yuletide beverage – ingredients include orange and lemon juice, honey, cloves, caraway seeds, and large amounts of whiskey; served hot in shot glasses) from a friend in the coal region, D’Reyes Peach Liquor which we brought back from Mexico and St. Clair Vineyards Port from NM. *There was also Glenlivet Nadurra single malt Scotch which paired so well with the Alaskan Smoked Porter.  Thanks, Dakotablue!!

The “starter” hit food was Nancy’s yummy salsa, and Marcy brought an array of beautiful and tasty desserts from the Pennsylvania Bakery which made a lovely finish to the night.

Alibis is Hoppin’

In general, Carlisle (PA) has never had a lot to offer the beer drinker, but it’s where I work and close to the hawkwatch, so we end up downtown a lot.  For ages, our only real choice was Market Cross Pub, which is a reliable place – especially for the bottled beer selection – but rarely offers anything spectacular on tap.

The problems with Market Cross are that it is so popular that they cram the tables in there so tight that it is uncomfortable, and there is hardly a difference between the smoking and non-smoking sections.  The draft selection is not awful, but also not very exciting.

As of today, the tap list was last updated Feb. 2007 and lists the following:

Market Cross Red Ale, Market Cross Pub Porter, Market Cross Olde Yeller IPA, Youngs Double Chocolate Stout, Bass Ale, Guinness Stout, Leffe Blonde, Harp Lager, Boddington’s Pub Ale, Smithwicks, Stella Artois, Yuengling Lager, Corsendonk Pale Ale, Lindeman’s Framboise, Weizen tap (changing varieties), draft cider (varies) and there is always a Cask Conditioned Ale.

They also do LOTS of beer blends and blends of soda and beer.  We’re talking about at least 17 beers on tap (I thought they had 20), and only one or two that really interest me.  None that impress me.

So when the hawkwatchers wanted to come down from the mountain for some great beers and good food on Saturday, I began to tell them about my last experience at Alibis Eatery and Spirits.  B-Susan and I popped in three nights ago on Halloween to treat ourselves, and decided to do a flight of 6 7-oz samples which, IMHO, included a really great line-up. 

In addition to the nice selection of draft beers and a varied selection of foods on the menu, Alibis offers a clean, less crowded, non-smoking atmosphere.  This was a MUCH better choice than a table in the smoking section at Market Cross.

The last time I posted about Alibis was a year ago, and I’ve been there many times since.  For awhile they were carrying a strong selection of lagers and pilsners – not my favorite – and some slightly flavorful ales.  But lately they have really stocked themselves with bigger beers, and last night we were thrilled with the hop possibilities.  We were treated to the following:

Additionally, on Wednesday night, B-Susan and I enjoyed:

Alibis carries a decent selection of bottled beers as well.  And they are offering a PA beer drinking t-shirt program:

Alibis is proud to offer more than 100 different beer selections, by the bottle and on draft. We also offer the areas only Pennsylvania Beer Tour; 38 quality brews representing PA’s great brewing heritage. Take the tour and we’ll pay homage to your efforts with the gift of a commemorative shirt!

They also have a great menu.  Everyone I’ve been there with loves their grilled selections – grilled chicken, burgers and steak salad.  I had the grilled salmon last night (glazed with Terrapin mustard; served with grilled portabella mushrooms, fresh asparagus, red bell peppers, and wilted greens in a roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette) and a salad with cumin dressing (WOW!)  Other favorites are the grilled portabella and roasted red pepper sandwich, the grilled cheese (this is not your Kraft American grilled cheese…choose Mild or Wild, made with local cheese!) and the pulled pork barbeque.

Alibis is doing a great job servicing my hop desires, and judging from the size of the crowds I’ve been witnessing, they seem to be fulfilling those of others as well.  I hope they don’t let the martini thing get bigger than the beer thing, and I hope chef Jason Turner keeps up the great taste and beautiful presentation.

If you go…check the entertainment schedule.  It can range from a “meet the brewer night” to karaoke, live rock bands and football, and can certainly change the experience.