You Got Peanut Butter in my Chocolate (Stout)!

Mmmm…Chocolate!   Mmmm…Peanut Butter! 

Two great tastes that taste GREAT together – we’ve known that for a long time. But how often do you find them in a beer?  I have, a couple of times, but last night I had one that drove it right out of the ballpark! Spring House Brewing Co. was serving up Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout on nitro at the Taproom in Lancaster, PA, and it was outstanding!

Beer List at the Taproom

Photo Credit: Taproom by Spring House Brewing Co. Facebook

Served in an Imperial pint glass, this beer was pitch black with a dense and creamy, thick tan head. It’s made with local Wilbur chocolate and what was described as a peanut butter powder (perhaps dehydrated peanut butter?), and the aroma off the glass was like splitting open a fresh peanut butter egg.

The flavor was so well balanced – like the darkest chocolate cake blended with a savory peanut butter frosting. It has lingering chocolate flavor, blended with a light hop bitterness and subtle peanut butter sweetness that masks the 8% ABV, making for a perfectly drinkable pint (so good I could drink it again and again!)

I did a little searching, and learned of another beer with this profile on tap this month. BandWagon Brew Pub inChocolate Peanut Butter Stout Ithaca, NY currently has a Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout that is coming in at 6.8% ABV. Another one that is also currently obtainable is Peanut Butter Coffee Porter at 5.5% ABV from Willoughby Brewing Co. in Ohio. It would be fun to add these to my portfolio of consumed peanut butter beers.

I’m pretty sure I had the Peanut Butter Porter (5% ABV) while visiting Boston Beer Works in 2006, and I know I drank an Über Goober Oatmeal Stout (6.5% ABV) in 2009 at Short’s Brewing in Bellaire, MI. These were both pretty good, but the Porter went way too light on the peanut butter flavor, and Uber Goober had sour untertones of stale legumes.

In other peanut butter beer news, has anyone seen or had the Blue Moon Peanut Butter Blonde? Did they make it outside GABF? A beer blogger there made me laugh with her quote, “I only tried this because it had peanut butter in it. It had a huge peanut butter nose, which was super interesting. Then I made the mistake and tasted it: wheat, peanut butter lager-y grossness…”, but since she also didn’t like New Glarus Raspberry Tart, I’m not sure we’d have similar opinions.

If you’ve ever doubted that peanut butter and chocolate belong together in a beer, get yourself to Lancaster and try this out. If you’re feeling really adventurous, blend it with Planet Bean Coffee Stout (can you say cake and coffee?) I’ve been waiting for someone to brew a Peanut Butter Whoopie Pie Stout and name it “Carolyn’s Obsession”, but this may just fill that need without the personalization.

If brewer Matt Keasey doesn’t keep this on as a regular, I don’t know what I’ll do – I’m in love with this beer – and if he doesn’t enter it in GABF, he’s crazy!  It is by far the best peanut butter beer ever.

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Pilgramage to Dark Lord Day 2009

After the fiasco of last year, I considered not attending the 2009 event, but it feels like with the new “golden ticket” program, Three Floyds may have a handle on the event today. Except that it’s pushing 7 AM Central, and they haven’t posted how many bottles a ticket holder can purchase yet – cash only, $15 – I’m thinking the ATM lines are going to be the ones to worry about this year!

I’m (voluntarily) stuck in Philadelphia, so I missed out on the pre-DLD festivities, but the text messages and Facebook updates sounded like everyone is having a great time.

Can’t wait to be there!

HopFest and StoutFest

Two private tasting parties yielded a great weekend beer list! Some of the things we pulled out were pretty amazing, and our party hosts provided an outstanding setting for tasting.

The HopFest

On Friday night, a small group of us gathered to share growlers. Hops were out in full force to make up this list.

We started with Rock Bottom Sub Zero IPA, which Ffej and Brandi picked up earlier in the day at King of Prussia. It’s a Simcoe-hop-based IPA, and had a really nice balance of piney and citrusy hop flavors. As one of the Brewmaster’s specials, it doesn’t appear on the website, but reviews can be read at Beer Advocate.

Next it was Pure Hoppiness from Alpine Beer Company. Alpine uses hops in the boil, runs it through a  hopback, and also dry-hops this Double IPA. This was a brighter, sweeter IPA. Both Ffej and D mentioned tropical and citrus fruit overtones; I thought the pine-sap sweetness and light malt flavors were in perfect harmony.

For our third offering, we opened a growler of Surly Grit 16. This is a Double IPA which was released as a growler-only special in recognition of loyal customers during the last days in which Surly was allowed to sell growlers due to current MN law. (In 2008, Surly sold over 3500 barrels of beer; MN law only allows off-sale licenses for breweries producing less than 3500 barrels. They can’t get the license in 2009 without cutting production, so no more growler sales, no more Darkness Day, and no more SurlyFest until/unless the law is changed.)

30 bbls of 16 Grit were brewed, but a couple were sucked up during the dry-hopping process. 901 growlers were sold on the first day.  16 Grit was kettle hopped with Warrior, Amarillo and Glacier hops, then dry-hopped twice with Glacier and Amarillo. It came out to 9% ABV (110 IBUs), and the folks at Surly described it as well balanced, caramel-oat malt flavors and huge orange lemon aroma finishing with a pithy bitterness.

D and I had a growler lined up for ourselves, but it slipped away. Luckily, Dain was able to score one and kind enough to share it. (There is a video of someone – not us – enjoying a growler…it picks up after minute #2.) It was a real treat just to get a glass.

Finally, we had Hopsickle Triple IPA from Moylan’s, which D picked up in a swingtopbottle. Brewed withTomahawk, Cascade and Centennial hops, this is a potent beverage with incredible hop stickiness.

I must make a special note here to say that we were pleased to see Troeg’s Nugget Nectar on tap at The Old Corner Hotel in Williamsport on Saturday night. Unfortunately, the staff there don’t seem to know what a great beer they’ve got (it doesn’t even have a unique tap handle.) But we did!

The StoutFest

Our friends David and Sarah hosted a Sunday stout tasting as an opportunity to clear out their beer cellar a little bit. It was a really fun event because they organized the afternoon as a blind tasting. We started with the line-up of five Coffee Stouts and one lone doppelbock, followed by 16 Imperial Stouts. I know this sounds like a lot, but the servings were very small with such a nice group of people doing the tasting.

David masked the bottles well, and poured a small amount for each person, and then we were asked to rate the beer on a scale of 1 to 10, as well as name the beer (it was a multiple choice test.) What an interesting experiment – a test of our own senses and perceptions. When the real names of the beers were revealed at the end, many of us were surprised at our guesses as well as our ratings.

Finally, the scores were averaged, and we were all sent a copy of the scored results. Here they are, scored from highest to lowest:

Coffee Stouts

  1. Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast (1st bottling); Overall score of 7.73
  2. Pisgah Valdez; Overall score of 7.5
  3. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel Péché Mortel; Overall score of 7.32
  4. Alesmith Speedway Stout; Overall score of 7.08
  5. Ithaca Kaffinator; Overall score of 6.7
  6. Deschutes Black Butte XX; Overall score of 6.25
  7. Mikkeller Black Hole; Overall score of 4.93

Imperial Stouts

  1. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout 2008 ;Overall Score of 9.0
  2. Foothills Sexual Chocolate; Overall score of 7.63
  3. Amager Bryghus Hr. Frederiksen; Overall score of 7.44
  4. (tie) Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. The Crusher Oatmeal-Imperial Stout (2007); Overall score of 7.08  and Pennichuck Pozharnik Whiskey Barrel Aged Brewers Reserve; Overall score of 7.08 (more higher marks)
  5. Three Floyds Dark Lord (2007); Overall score of 7.04
  6. (tie) Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2008  Overall score of 7.0 and Deschutes The Abyss (2006); Overall score of 7.0 (more higher marks)
  7. Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout; Overall score of 6.73
  8. (tie) Stoudt’s Barrel Aged Fat Dog (2008 whiskey); Overall score of 6.54 and Oskar Blues Ten FIDY; Overall score of 6.54 (more higher marks)
  9. Left Hand Imperial Stout; Overall score of 6.42
  10. Highland Imperial Black Mocha Stout; Overall score of 6.23
  11. Odell Imperial Stout; Overall score of 6.12
  12. Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (2007); Overall score of 6.08
  13. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout 2008  Overall score of 6.0

At some point I may go back and add links to these, but it’s another one of those nights where I stayed up too late.

Many, many thanks to our hosts for providing such a nice selection of beers, an interesting event and great food and coffee (fresh from Costa Rica!)

Officer Sassy and the Dark Lord

I’m not going to waste my time and energy posting negative thoughts on Dark Lord Day 2008 – I certainly had some, but plenty of people have posted the whiny thoughts and I’ll be happy to point you there (see this post, which will link you to griping on the forums.) I can’t disagree with most of it, but I also can’t see dwelling on it. Besides – don’t I look happy?

Waiting for Dark Lord  That’s not a photo of drunk – that’s exhilaration (many thanks to Ev for the costume inspiration…after the hat exchange, my companions started calling me Officer Sassy. With a Troeg’s work shirt, a little bedazzling and a Marshall’s badge from Dark Horse, I was set!)

Overall, I had a FABULOUS time! I traveled with fun people, we stopped at some great breweries along the way out and back, and it was my pleasure to catch up with fellow beer enthusiasts in the parking lot of Three Floyd’s. It started out as a chilly day (or, as I pointed out, cellar temperature), and I was thrilled that I purchased a cozy long sleeve t-shirt from Bell’s – I needed it with that wind!

Derek, Kim and Heath

I owe a heap of thanks to Kim for being our able (read sober) driver and trip coordinator – she did a super job at both! Heath and Derek were great traveling companions, making sure we didn’t miss a single thing (well, Cereal City was a miss for now-obvious reasons, but all of the beer stops were right on!) There are a lot of terrific beer people in the world, but this was a crew I was more than happy to spend four days in the car with! 
Jim and Joan sharing Pisgah Baptista!

Uncle Jedi and Joan (aka Mrs. Jedi) get the hospitality prize for making a place for us in the line. They are always a treat to hang out with, as are the entire Free the Hops clan (not all of them are in the photo below…just the ones wearing kilts!)

Free the Hops!

Speaking of the line, a couple of bloggers mapped the beer line, and this was one of my favorite renditions. I just couldn’t get an accurate photo of it, which I estimated to be 4500 people stretched over no less than 1/2 a mile. I was so glad to get my six bottles of Dark Lord Imperial Stout, and also my allotted two bottles of Hvedegoop Wheat Wine (a surprise for D.) When we packed it all in the car, it was obvious we weren’t even going to attempt getting more.

It\'s full  Me with Officer Hall  PA Girls love beer!

Meeting Officer Hall and collecting his trading card made my day (next time, I’ll need an “Officer Sassy” card.) And I thank Aaron for introducing me to April (and April for the photo with an inebriated stranger!)

Everyone at the event in a brew-sharing mood gets a big thank you, too! I shared my Troeg’s Nugget Nectar, but kept looking for an opportunity to pop my bottle of Otto’s Double D and just never saw an opening (no offense to Otto’s, but the bottles being passed around we far superior!)

There are some additional summaries blogged here and here, and a little video coverage.

One of my favorite summaries of the event was on the Vagoscribe blog– it is both poetic and completely descriptive of the experience. There are no expressions of detestation, anger or even elation, which is kind of how I left this year’s experience (last year, I departed full of elation and urine – thanks, FFF, for the improved toilet situation this year.)

By 2:30 on Saturday, I did say, “where is the get-the-hell-out-of-here line?,” simply because the lines were so disorganized. I felt like a character in Hope for the Flowers (read pages 12-17 and you’ll understand what I mean!) – it was impossible to tell which line led to which final destination or how long it would take to get there. We decided to find food, clean bathrooms and great beer, which I will talk about in my next post…when I get to it.

Until then, I hope you, too, have found some good beer with good friends!

 

 

Dreaming of Chocolate

Tonight I’m escaping the cold, driving rain by sitting inside enjoying a Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (limited bottling – vintage ’04-’05.)  It has a rich,  sharp and roasty chocolate flavor. The complexity of chocolate, hops, and a subtle alcohol bite is exciting to the palate, and stimulates my brain to consider the number of lovely chocolate-inspired beers out there.

One of my new favorites is Southern Tier Imperial Choklat Stout, which is part of the Blackwater Series of big beers. Weighing in at 11% ABV, this amazing beverage is brewed with bittersweet Belgian chocolate, and while loved by many, is a polarizing brew. People who love it, LOVE it. Others say it is too sweet and not appealing at all. My initial impressions were that it is a smooth, creamy chocolate flavor, much like a Frosty(TM) or, as I drank more of it, the chocolaty center of a Tootsie Pop – the chocolate ones, and just at the point where you cross over from the pop to the Tootsie Roll inside. I actually loved this anonymous review in Motif magazine:

You might be seeing Oompa Loompas if you don’t treat this 11% ABV Wonka bar with care. Most chocolate stouts hint at the chocolate, Choklat puts it right up front and it slides right down yer hole. The milk chocolate is balanced nicely with some piney hops, and hints of roasted barley and coffee.

And then there was the recent announcement of Dogfish Head Theobroma which will debut during Philly Beer Week.  This is a 10% ABV brew based on chemical analysis of pottery fragments found in Honduras and will contain cacao powder, cacao nibs, honey, chilies and annatto (an aromatic seed.)  Patrick McGovern, senior research scientist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (and acquaintance to D through the birding world), performed the analysis. He is the same man responsible for DFH Midas Touch Golden Elixir, and ancient honey beer based on analysis of contents found in the tomb of King Midas, and DFH Chateau Jiahu – a rice, honey and fruit beer with it’s foundation in ancient China.

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed the Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence on tap.  This is a lighter stout made with Belgian dark chocolate. It was lightly bitter and not at all heavy or sweet. And it is hard not to enjoy the well balanced Rogue Chocolate Stout, which was originally created for export to Japan (What’s that all about?!? Create it and export it to MY house!)  This is one I recently enjoyed from the bottle with friends.

In December 2007, I was thrilled to find Choco Latte Porter from San Diego Brewing Company which is poured on nitrogen (the tap handle at Liar’s Club was a Hershey Bar!) This thin porter had surprisingly strong chocolate overtones and hints of dark-roast coffee.  And I’m always pleased to be presented with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. This thick, black beverage features a fabulous blend of chocolate and coffee bean, while maintaining a sweet, smooth body with a modestly warm alcohol burn.

I’m hoping that a creative brewery like Pisgah or Weyerbacher might try a chocolate stout sometime soon. Maybe for the next cold weather season?  Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the day we get to brew our own next concoction – C.O.W. Stout – an oatmeal stout brewed with chocolate and put into secondary fermentation on a bed of toasted walnuts.

Foothills (Winston-Salem, NC)

I’ve found some time to post more notes from Thursday, so here is my report from our lunch at Foothills Brewing Company. There hasn’t been a whole lot of change since our last visit, so I won’t ramble on here about it. As expected, the draft selection was fabulous, but to start our day off slowly:

  • I only had one – the Seeing Double IPA(9.5%; 110 IBUs), which is just a wonderful example of a double IPA. Nothing overpowers (other than the fact that it is a double IPA!); it’s just a warm, sweet nectar. It is served in a 10 oz glass, and the deep copper color is just beautiful. It has a light citrus aroma, and a pine hop bite. Cloudiness in the glass adds to the mystery of this double IPA.
  • D had the Hoppyum IPA(6.75% ABV) to start, while his Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout had time to warm. This is so different from the Seeing Double IPA. It is a clear copper color with a crisp finish. Simply a pleasant American IPA.
  • The Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout (10.5% ABV) was so much better than last February. Last year it was really hot – really to the point that I couldn’t drink it – it ruined my taste buds. This year, it still has an obvious high alcohol burn, but the rich flavors of chocolate and roasted malts, and the sweetness of dark fruits come through well. This beverage has a strong alcohol burn, which will mellow out over time. I believe last year I called the aroma flammable, but this year’s brew is sweet to the nose.

The best thing about our visit was that we got to meet Jamie Bartholomaus, the owner and brewer of Foothills, and a Pennsylvania native. It was so kind of his wife, Sarah, to stop by and check on our table. She talked with us a bit, and picked up on the fact that we were interested in meeting him. He was able to sit down, taking time to chat for awhile.

We learned his interesting history in brewing, and one of his former brewing experiences was at Olde Hickory Brewing Company, and the former brewing facility (now more of a restaurant and small batch brewing facility) was on the way out of town.  We confirmed our suspicion that the Sexual Chocolate was brewed a little earlier this year (October) and tweaked just enough to make it more enjoyable in February (in time for the bottle release, although our bottles will certainly sit for awhile longer!) It sounds like it will be easy to find a glass in Asheville (and other locations for anyone not visiting Asheville!), but he held back at least 12 kegs for aging and release throughout the year. Naturally, Foothills will be at Brewgrass, but also he mentioned a food/beer pairing he’ll be attending called Savor in DC. He gave us a sample of the People’s Porter as well. It would have been lovely to stay longer and drink a whole glass, but we needed to move on.

But I would be remiss in ending this post without talking about the food. Our waiter, Stephen, was quite conscientious despite the busy lunch crowd. He talked to us about some of the menu changes (they dropped the salad with chevre, oranges and snow peas that I loved so much!), but he made other recommendations. I had the Greek salad made with romaine and spinach, topped with balsamic onions, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and feta. The green goddess dressing (made with cream cheese) was a bit too thick for my taste, so I had the balsamic vinaigrette. Along with it, I enjoyed a cup of the creamy She Crab Soup, which had a little zip to it, and small pieces of shell, just so you know it’s authentic! D had the Cuban sandwich, which came with some terrific fries and a wonderful garlic dill pickle spear.

It’s hard not to enjoy yourself at Foothills, but do take quarters for the meter (only 25-cents an hour) and keep it fed!

Liar’s Club – Alpine, CA

This morning we got up and did a little last-minute shopping before heading for the desert. Because we got out of town so late, we had an opportunity to stop for brunch in Alpine at the Alpine Inn.

It is a funky little place – dark inside, and made me think it’s where the old people go – but we really enjoyed our “Sunday Country Brunch”.  For $12.95, we had a choice of one of many menu items. D had the huevos rancheros, which came with rice, beans and hash browns. I had the seafood omelette with the tomatoes substituted for the potatoes. All brunch meals come with biscuits and gravy, and handmade Bloody Mary’s on the house.  Pretty good food, and very interesting place.

Heading toward the highway, we decided to check on the Liar’s Club (located at 2806 Alpine Blvd, Alpine, CA 91901) – did they open last night? Are they open now?

The answers were Yes, and Yes!  It was 11 AM, and they were just opening for the first full day of business.  What a great time we had there, too.  There were 32 active taps, and a few in reserve, as well as a large bottle selection.  They offered 10-oz glasses and pints, and the selection was terrific! We had a few things from the taps:

  • AleSmith Speedway Stout (awesome!!)
  • San Diego Brewing Co. Chocolate Porter (on nitrogen with a Hershey Bar tap handle)
  • Fox Barrel Cassis Cider (yummy!!)
  • New Belgium La Folie
  • Rubicon Wheat Wine

We really enjoyed the people, too.  Pete, our bartender who moved with the business, and Heidi, a bartender in training, were great with us and all of the incoming customers, and we met Louis Mello, the owner, and a guy who I suspect may be Al Guerra, the new business partner. Despite the first day hectic feeling, they were all very willing to share information about the place, the beers, and the beer scene.

                    Liar’s Club             C and D at Liar’s Club

I know I’m not “from here”, but I can say with conviction that this is a great beer bar and so very worth the beautiful drive from the city. The selection is amazing – anything you could want (except a macro) – and the food looked great. It will get louder once televisions are installed, but otherwise, it’s got everything going right for it. Oh – and best bathrooms of the trip! The ladies room was really pretty, with a feminine selection of hand soaps and lotions. Hooray for a beer bar with a beautiful head!

C at Anza-Borrego

I’ve got some photos of the new place, and perhaps I’ll get some links and/or descriptions up later, but after a day in the desert (Anza-Borrego), and a long drive back to La Quinta, I’ve got to get to bed.

Congratulations on your opening, [New] Liar’s Club – we hope you are still around on our next visit!  BTW – anyone have a phone number for this place?

Countdown to Christmas – Introduction

Give it to D to find a creative way to clear out some of the inventory…  How about a new and/or different beer each day between December 1 and 25?  He calls it his Advent Calendar of Beer.

Instead of little candies, we get little beer surprises each day.  I’m not exactly sure what the rules are – perhaps he’s making them up as we go along – but it’s been fun trying.

We kicked it off with a weekend away on December 1 and 2, joining up with friends and traveling the “golden triangle of PA beer,” which includes Otto’s Pub & Brewery in State College, The Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, and Selin’s Grove Brewing Co. in Selinsgrove. 

In addition the the three brewpubs, we enjoyed several additional stops including Zeno’s Pub in State College (where I picked up my St. Nicholaus Brewer’s Reserve in the pretty velvet bag!), a private tasting with the Ferry’s, and an extra visit to Bullfrog for Sunday Brunch (yummmm – beer and eggs – the last time I did that was at Holy Cow in Las Vegas.)

Over the course of the trip, we consumed the brews below.  I know the list looks long, but remember that there were 4 of us traveling, 8 of us at the tasting, and the three brewpubs all offered half-pints. 

At Otto’s – they had 10 beers on tap plus 2 on the handpump

  • Arthur’s Amarillo Pale Ale on cask
  • Mom’s Elderberry Stout
  • Ottonator Doppelbock
  • Apricot Wheat
  • Jolly Roger Russian Imperial Stout on cask

At Zeno’s – so many taps and bottles, we can’t count that high…3 cask beers (there is a good reason this place was placed in the Top 50 Places to Have a Beer (#41))

  • Arthur’s Amarillo Pale Ale on cask (again!)
  • St. Nick Bock – Penn Brewing
  • Gouden Carolus Ambrio
  • Bell’s Two Hearted – featured on the TODAY show this week
  • St. Bernardus Christmas Ale – this is the first year available in US in bottles, and was the honorary first beer on the Advent Calendar.

At Bullfrog – they had 12 of their own (2 on cask) and two guest taps; unfortunately the Hop Harvest kicked the previous day.

  • Blue Collar Brown on cask
  • Wolfsblood Scotch Ale
  • Lights Out Imperial Stout
  • Edgar IPA
  • Inspiration Red

In bottles at the Ferry’s house (I think more were consumed – these were just for the tasting; many more were not consumed!)

  • Strawberry Creme Ale – Brutal Deluxe Brewery (our homebrew)
  • Mount Desert Island Ginger Beer – Atlantic Brewing Co.
  • Black Raspberry Reserve – Sly Fox
  • Christmas Ale – Great Lakes Brewing Co.
  • Old Man Winter – Southern Tier Brewing
  • Scratch Beer #4 – Troegs Brewing
  • Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2006 – Anchor Brewing Co.
  • 2007 Smoked Porter – Alaskan Brewing Co.
  • Hibernation Ale – Great Divide Brewing Co.
  • Old Abominable Barrel Aged/Bottle Conditioned Barleywine – Stout’s Brewing Co.

At Selin’s Grove – there were 8 beers on tap and 2 on the hand-pump

  • Pumpkin Ale on nitrogen
  • Mud Puppy Organic Brown Ale on cask
  • Mud Puppy Organic Brown Ale on nitrogen
  • India Pale Ale
  • St. Fillian’s Scotch Style Barleywine on cask; the second beer on the Advent Calendar

Thanks to Heath and Kim for keeping a great pictorial diary of the trip (most of the photos I’ll use in this post are his…they still need to be edited before they get added…)  It was great fun to travel with them. 

Dave and Pascha went out of their way to make our trip complete by hosting the tasting, providing a nice assortment of finger foods, and allowing us to sleep over (and Pascha sent me home with a great reading list!)  Thanks SO much to them, and their entertaining children. 

Mary and Steve were delightful company for the tasting, plus I got to see Mary’s Galapagos program, which was cool.  It was really fun to see them again.

What a nice way to kick off the month!

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.

Foothills Brewing Company (Winston-Salem, NC)

A major accident closing I-81 caused us to reroute our trip, and instead we took the slower but more beautiful trip on US 29 to I-40 into Winston-Salem.  D made our lodging arrangements in advance, so we checked in and quickly headed off to dinner at Foothills Brewing Company (we were pleased to learn that the kitchen remained open until 11, and the place would be open until 2 AM with live music.

Foothills was easily located under the towering GMAC building, and right next to a lunch counter with antique pretzel cans (many from locations near our home) lining the window.  Inside, Foothills, which opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 2004, was a large, open space – very warehouse in appearance with a large brick wall, and lots of open seating.  The bar and band area is tucked toward the back, and with the lower ceiling design, the noise, joyful as it may be, was contained to that area.  We were greeted by an extremely friendly fellow named Ben, who we later learned works in distributing to many areas, including Asheville. Our waiter, Che, was an extremely pleasant and helpful fellow.  We didn’t get to meet the Jamie, the brewer, because he’d gone to
Florida.

We ate well, and we drank well.  I had a beautiful salad of greens topped with soft, fried, cashew-encrusted chevre cheese and garnished with oranges, snow peas on a layer of citrus vinaigrette with rosemary.  I should have stopped there, but I also ordered a cup of chili (very thick and meaty…more than my liking, but oh, so nicely spiced!) and unfortunately for my waistline, helped D with this mountain of beer-battered onion rings.  They were thick and creamy – the kind that just melt in your mouth – and served with homemade catsup.  Additionally, he had a wonderful plate of shrimp and grits.  The shrimp was done in a lovely tomato-based sauce, and the grits were creamed with cheese.  It was a spicy yet succulent dish.

Foothills offers a sample tray of the six regular brews, but I knew I didn’t want anything “golden” or a pilsner when there was a double IPA and imperial stout on the menu.  So I created my own sample tray of four ales (IPA, Stout, Porter and Festive (IBA)), then had a 10 oz of the Seeing Double IPA. D had a pint of the ESB, followed by a 10 oz of the Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout (specifics on the beers follow this posting.)

Everything we had at Foothills was enjoyable.  Everything was well done, and the overall experience at this brewpub was notable.  One of my favorite observations was the staff.  Ben and Che were both attentive and knowledgeable wait staff, but it was after we left our table and went to the bar that they really impressed me. 

They don’t just work at Foothills – they are patrons of the place, and enjoy hanging out drinking the local brew after hours.  And knowing we were out-of-towners, they took additional time to come talk to us about the beers, the town and advise us on the next few days of our trip.  They made us feel welcome, not just as new customers, but as new friends to the area.  And it was obvious that they many of the people were good friends and good customers.

The music was pleasant (single guy with acoustic guitar and vocals), the beers were satisfying (Seeing Double was excellent; Hoppyum was worthy of a shirt purchase for me, while D chose the Total Eclipse Stout shirt for the bird/beer combination artwork.)

Hoppyum IPA    6.75%
Total Eclipse Stout    7.0%;  44 IBUs
Rainbow Trout ESB   4.5%;  38 IBUs
Porter – bitterness from roasted malt
Festive IBA   7% – bitterness from hops
Seeing Double IPA   9.5%; 110 IBUs
Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout  10.5% – aroma is flammable!  This beer is smooth with chocolate, but not ovepowering.