Monthly Archives: March 2015

Five Recipes for Your Cocktail Hour

… And now for a change of pace.

Sure, beer cocktails are all the rage these days. But there’s more to imbibing than beer. Sacrilege, I know. But in the spirit of expanding our flavour and aroma horizons, how about an evening cocktail?

Depending on your fridge, pantry, and bar stocks, you could make these right now. If your cupboard looks more like Mother Hubbard’s, then these recipes will get you heading to the supermarket or bottle shop in search of some new ingredients to sample.

Setting Up the Bar

First up, if you don’t already have the tools of the trade, you’ll need to procure them or rig something up and make do. Cobbler Shaker

Shaker (Boston shaker or cobbler). The Boston shaker is a two-piece shaker that consists of a stainless steel container that fits into a pint glass. I prefer the Boston shaker because it holds more, and fits a finer-grained cocktail strainer that gives you more control over the amount of seeds and fruit chunks that get into your glass.

Strainer (for Boston Shaker). Bonus: These kinds of strainers don’t clog as easily as the outlets on a typical cobbler (pictured).

Measuring glass. Ideally, you want one that measures in ounces, milliliters, tablespoons, and teaspoons.

Muddler (for mashing up fruit or herbs). If you don’t have one, the back of a spoon will do.

Bar spoon (for stirring drinks that aren’t shaken). A regular spoon is fine, but isn’t always long enough. Chopsticks work better if you have them on hand. I use a glass stir stick. IMG_0588

Shopping List

Fruit and herbs. Use fresh fruit when you can get it. If not, frozen fruit (especially berries) work in a pinch. For fruits that make it to North American supermarket shelves less frequently, look for purées from companies like Goya (good for passion fruit, guava, mango, and the like). Always use fresh herbs.

Fruit juices. Avoid the mixes and juice your own fruit. Almost every cocktail recipe has some sort of acidic/sour component for balance and crispness, with lemon and lime virtually ubiquitous in cocktail recipes. Citrus fruits with thinner skins yield more juice. Let your citrus come to room temperature before juicing. Bottled cranberry juice or canned pineapple juice work well.

Simple syrup. This is easy to make, and adaptable. You can infuse it with anything from lavender to peppercorns to chilies. Simmer a one-to-one ratio of granulated sugar and filtered water until the liquid begins to thicken slightly. Stores well in the fridge.

Bitters. You can find Angostura bitters just about anywhere, but grab some Peychaud’s bitters or Regans’ Orange No.6 to spice up your cocktails if you can find them. Fee Brothers also produces a wide range of bitters, including celery bitters.

Spirits and other liquor. Do some experimenting. You might find that you prefer Gordon’s to Beefeater or Tanqueray. Sometimes a ten-dollar bottle of vodka will do the trick. I use saké quite often in my cocktails, but I don’t add anything more expensive than your standard Gekkeikan.IMG_1957 When it comes to vermouth, though, I find that the few extra bucks on something like Noilly-Prat is worth the expense.

Ice. Ice is one of the most important ingredients in your cocktail kit. When I first started making cocktails, I used to just toss the ingredients together haphazardly and then wonder why my drinks tasted so damned harsh. Cocktails need water to smooth out the rough edges and release the esters of the spirits. If you drink Scotch or Bourbon, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. Larger ice cubes are better, as they release water more slowly during the shake or stir than smaller cubes or hollow cubes. Too much water is just as bad as too little.

Recipes

And now for the drinks!

The Procrastinator

This drink came to me one late spring afternoon while contemplating an essay that stubbornly refused to let itself be written. Why force things? I went into the kitchen and kept on contemplating. The result of my ruminations is based loosely on the Mojito. Adjust the sweetness to match your taste.

  • 4 sprigs fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 0.75 oz. honey
  • 1.5 oz. lime juice
  • 1.5 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 oz. saké
  • 2 oz. white rum
  • Soda

Muddle the first two ingredients in the bottom of a mixing glass and continue to muddle while adding the next two ingredients. Add ice and the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good shake. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice, top with soda, and garnish with mint and a wedge of lime. *A note on the honey: heat it up and dilute it with a little bit of filtered water so that it pours more easily.

Cool as a Cucumber

Perfect for long, sunny afternoons that stretch imperceptibly into evening. This cocktail pays tribute to springtime in Montreal. I first had the drink that inspired this recipe at Decca 77.

  • 2.5 oz. saké
  • 1 oz. Hendricks Gin
  • 0.5 oz. lime juice
  • 0.5 oz. simple syrup
  • 3 cubes cucumber
  • Soda

Muddle the chunks of cucumber at the bottom of a shaker glass. Shake all the ingredients together and strain into a highball glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint. *Note: You can use other brands of gin, but this is one occasion where a particular brand (Hendricks) improves the cocktail.

Hill Country Sunrise

I had just bought a bottle of Fee Bros. rhubarb bitters and was looking for something to do with it. The perfect occasion for experimentation presented itself when an old friend turned up with his family en route between Dallas and Toronto. He pulled out a bottle of spicy Texan vodka, we found some nicely ripe peaches at the local supermarket, and voila.

  • Half of a white peach, cubedIMG_0591
  • 1.75 oz. Dripping Springs Texan Vodka
  • 1 oz. rosemary-infused simple syrup
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 3-4 dashes rhubarb bitters

To make the rosemary simple syrup, crush a few rosemary needles in a mortar and pestle, then let stand in a shot or two of simple syrup for about half an hour. You can also make a more involved version by infusing a batch of simple syrup with a few sprigs of rosemary.

Muddle the peach well until it has transformed into a pulp. Add ice to the mixing glass along with the other ingredients, and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass for a more “refined” drink, or pour the whole lot into a rocks glass. Garnish with mint and a slice of peach.

Chili Passion

The first time I had a cocktail with some heat in it was at the West Village’s Perry St. restaurant. The bartender mentioned Thai chilies as the heat source, but in recreating this cocktail I used a three-way blend of half a dried ancho, a third of a dried chipotle, and one whole seeded chile de arbol to infuse my passion fruit simple syrup with a subtle smokiness.

Start with equal proportions simple syrup and passion fruit purée (about one cup of each). Chop up the dried chilies and infuse them in the liquid until you get your desired level of heat. Strain. Don’t let the mix infuse for too long, or the smokiness of the chipotle will overpower the passion fruit. You can use the strained chilies in one cup of simple syrup for an interesting infusion that contains a hint of passion fruit. Regardless, you’ll have plenty of chili-infused passion fruit simple syrup left over, so experiment away on other recipes.

  • 1.5 oz. gin
  • 2 oz. chili-passion fruit infusion
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz. simple syrup
  • Soda

Add ice to a mixing glass and build the drink. Stir or shake. Serve in a highball glass or flute and top with a float of club soda.

Old Fashioned

You might not feel like traveling all over hell’s half acre in search of some of the ingredients needed to make the cocktails above. And that’s no problem. Chances are you already have everything you need to make this classic cocktail. The Old Fashioned first turned up on Bourbon Country at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY, in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some dispute exists as to whether club soda is appropriate. I’ve had good results with just a splash, but I prefer a long stir to release some water from the ice. For an interesting twist on this classic, use kumquats sliced into discs or quarters.

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 orange slices, one cut thickly
  • 3 oz. bourbon
  • 2 maraschino cherries

In the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, soak the sugar cube with the bitters. Muddle this together with the thickly-sliced orange (or three kumquats sliced into discs and seeded) and one of the cherries. Add the bourbon. One large ice cube is ideal. If you don’t have large cubes, just add a small handful of ice cubes. Give it all a good stir while counting to thirty. Garnish with the second orange and cherry.IMG_0590

Two cocktail books worth your money:

Dale DeGroff, The Craft of the Cocktail (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2002).

Gary Regan, The Joy of Mixology: The Consummate Guide to the Bartender’s Craft (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2003).

Related Tempest Articles

When Once They Drank Beer Warm: Cocktails and Concoctions from Olde Albion

Spreading Good Cheer with a Tankard of Mulled Beer

With the exception of the cobbler shaker (Wiki Commons), photos by F.D. Hofer.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Augurs of Spring: Wheat Beers Belgian, German, and American (Sat. 6-Pack, Vol.4)

Warmer days and cool nights. April showers on the horizon. The occasional spring frost following upon a stretch of summer-like days.

Time to lay those warming Russian Stouts and barley wines down to rest for another season.

* * *

The quintessential beer for your rites of spring, be they seeding the garden or cleaning the cobwebs out of the grill, is one that’ll quench your thirst on a sunny afternoon yet stand up to an evening chill. You won’t go wrong with a hoppy and refreshing American brown ale, and nor would a porter be out of place on a cooler day. For this Saturday’s six-pack, though, I’m going to suggest a selection of beers that stays within one (admittedly broad) family, a family of beers that hits all the registers of spring in its arc between winter and summer: wheat beers.

Van Gogh - Wheat-Fields-at-Auvers-Under-Clouded-Sky_July_1890 (WikiCommons)

Weizenbock: Vitus, Weihenstephan (Germany)

Weihenstephan has been making beer in Freising near Munich since 1040, so they’ve had a few years more than most brewers to perfect their recipes. And this Weizenbock (wheat bock) recipe comes as close to perfection as you’ll get among a stable of beers that also includes Weihenstephan’s sublime Hefeweissbier. Weihenstephan-Freising (weihenstephaner-de)

Vitus is the epitome of unctuous, and makes for an ideal transition between seasons. Aromas of honeyed light brown sugar, wheat, clove, allspice, and white pepper cascade out from underneath the epic pearl-white mountain of foam, with the slightest trace of butterscotch and a suggestion of saline minerality lurking in the depths.Weihen-Vitus (weihenstephaner-de) Swiss milk caramel shines through on the palate along with spiced honey, all exquisitely balanced by ripe banana, clove, and cinnamon en route to a velvet finish of marzipan and pear-banana-allspice.

At a honeyed, aromatic, and richly textured 7.7%, Vitus hides its potency well. But fear not if you overindulge your inner entertainer after drinking a few of these, for Vitus just so happens to be the patron saint of dancers, actors, and comedians.

Three Tankards.

Witbier/Bière Blanche: Blanche de Namur, Brasserie du Bocq (Belgium)

Wheat has deep roots in Wallonia and Flanders. Records of wheat grown for beer brewing date back to the time of Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire. Established in 1858, the Brasserie du Bocq in the heart of the Condroz is a family operation that adheres to the traditional process of secondary fermentation in the bottleBrasserie du Bocq bldg (www-bocq-be). The name of their witbier, Blanche de Namur, also evokes local tradition. In August 1335, Blanche de Namur was married off by her father, the Count of Namur, to Magnus IV Eriksson. When she embarked on her trip to Scandinavia to become a queen, it would be the last time she saw the banks of the Meuse. Brasserie du Bocq dedicates their beer to Blanche de Namur’s “beauty, sweetness and delicacy.”

Sweet and delicate this ochre-complexioned beer is. Dreamy aromas of lemony coriander, mild grapefruit zest, and spicy-floral hops set the stage for a rich, mouth-filling showcase of creamy wheat and citrus-spice that finishes up with a flinty dryness.Blanche de Namur (www-bocq-be) Many a North American craft beer drinker tends to conflate richness of flavour and a high percentage of alcohol. At 4.5% ABV, this is just the beer to puncture such myths.

One Tankard.

Hefeweizen: Bräuweisse, Ayinger Privatbrauerei (Germany)

To me, nothing says spring or summer more than a Hefeweizen, but the signature clove and banana aromatics along with the periodic hint of vanilla and honeyed light brown sugar are at home in just about any season. Ayinger’s Bräuweisse is a hazy honey-golden Hefeweizen crowned by a towering, meringue-like foam cap, and is one of the most compelling examples of this southern German style of beer that is nothing if not unique.

Pushing one-hundred-and-thirty years young, Ayinger isn’t quite as storied as Weihenstephaner, but the brewery is no less respected in Germany and beyond for its array of lagers and wheat beers.Ayinger Brauweisse (ayinger-bier-de) 2 The Bräuweisse exudes a panoply of aromas ranging from creamed ripe banana and apple to lemon curd and light milky caramel. The spicing is subtle, more like a blend of baking spices that encompasses clove, cinnamon, and allspice. Creamy and mouthfilling yet still effervescent, the palate presents a harmonious mix of graham cracker, vanilla-banana, and a touch of tingly pepper and hop spiciness. For best results, drink in a beer garden, preferably in sight of the Alps.

Three Tankards.

American Wheat: American Wheat Beer, Choc (U.S.A.)

Brown beers may well get no luvin’ on the sites that gauge the barometric pressure of the North American craft beer scene. For American wheat beers, though, the fate is even worse: silence. One of the longer-standing indigenous American beer styles, American wheat beer doesn’t even merit a mention in Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont’s recent World Atlas of Beer. For my part, I have to admit that if I were to list my favourite beer styles, American wheat beer would not make it too high up the ladder. That’s no reason to pass on this typically effervescent and easy-drinking beer style in the springtime, though. The style is fairly ubiquitous across North America, and you can find the occasional intriguing example like 3 Floyds’ Gumballhead, but for this Saturday’s sixer, I’m going to go with a solid example from Oklahoma’s quiet powerhouse, Choc Beer Company.

Choc traces its roots back to a time when Pete Prichard (né Pietro Piegari) served up beer to the English, Irish, Welsh, and Italian immigrants who flocked to the area in search of jobs in the nearby coal mines. Prichard operated through Prohibition out of Pete’s Place, his family-style Italian eatery that fast became an institution in southeastern Oklahoma. Today, Choc brews a slate of solid and affordable beers alongside a small roster of respectable specialty releases.

Formerly known as 1919 Choc Beer, the hazy straw-gold American Wheat Beer weaves together malt and hops into a delicate canvas of lemon grass and coconut aromatics reminiscent of Thai cuisine.Choc - American Wheat (label) Malt anchors the beer unobtrusively, with notes of fresh bread, nougat, and toasted toffee. But that’s not all: the hops contribute a pineapple-tangerine quality that melds well with the nougat, along with a subtle spiciness and a breath of spring flowers in bloom. Clean and crisp, the beer finishes with the slightest bitterness that leads into a lingering aftertaste of dried apricot and cinnamon-dusted white raisins. The aromatics and flavours of Choc’s American Wheat Beer are many but subtle, and come together like the individual brush strokes of an Impressionist painting. Indeed, this is both the strength and weakness of this beer that eschews bold gestures in favour of nuance. No show-stopper, Choc’s American Wheat Beer is, nonetheless, a pleasant drink that rewards patience. Drink cool but not cold.

Gose: Original Ritterguts Gose, Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf (Germany)

Even if it took a few decades for the North America craft beer cognoscenti to bestow its seal of approval on this tart and refreshing beer most closely associated with the city of Leipzig, Gose is now one of the hottest summertime beer commodities. Summer aside, Gose is, like Hefeweizen, a versatile beer eminently suited to spring’s capricious weather.

IMG_4828

The past few years have witnessed many an intriguing Gose crop up in beer stores across North America, but none of these excellent beers quite matches the peerless Original Ritterguts Gose. Despite how the name may look and sound to English speakers unacquainted with German, Ritterguts Gose traces a rather noble history back to the Rittergut (manor) of Döllnitz, where Gose production started in 1824. As part of the general Gose revival underway in 1990s Leipzig, Tilo Jänichen developed a Gose that was based on this original Döllnitzer manor recipe, but could barely keep up with demand.Rittergute Gose Labels Production shifted to ever-larger breweries, and in 2007 Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf took on the brewing of Original Ritterguts Gose.

Brauhaus Hartmannsdorf’s iteration of this classic recipe is a deep, burnished golden beer with a luminescent haze. Out of the hazy mist float complex aromas of fresh raw almond, wheat cereal richness, a quinine-like sourness, and a coriander-clove spiciness buffeted by a gentle sea breeze carrying green plum scents not unlike Japanese ume-boshi. Mouth-filling, silky, and with just enough lassi-like saltiness and moderate acidity to whet the appetite, our Döllnitzer classic builds to a mineral-crisp and dry finish of almonds, stone fruit, and spiced apple that made me think, briefly, of chutney. Compared to other examples of the style, the honeyed nougat-like malt depth lends this beer a certain gravitas, and the very low level of hops (with a herbal note suggestive of dill) meshes well with the savoury coriander and brine notes.

A standard bearer. Three Tankards.

Berliner Weisse: Berliner Style Lager (Sour Wheat Lager), Jack’s Abby (U.S.A.)

If the weighty Weizenbock is perfectly suited to those days when you can still hear winter’s echo, the Berliner Weisse is its antipode: crisp, sour, and refreshing. Where Weizenbock makes a fine accompaniment to an evening après-ski, Berliner Weisse is more at home when the late-spring mercury is pointing toward summertime.Jacks Abby Berliner (jacksabbybrewing-com) Like the historic Gose, this northern German beer style is another that has enjoyed a renaissance of late among North American craft beer enthusiasts smitten with sour beers.

In a nod to the traditional practice of using a neutral ale yeast, Jack’s Abby of Framingham, MA, ferments its Berliner Weisse with a lager yeast after souring the mash. The results are an impressive rendition of what Napoleon once called “the Champagne of the north,” and what the ever-pragmatic Berliners dubbed simply “the workers’ sparkling wine.” Jack’s Abby combines aspects of both champagne and white wine with its bread dough-like yeasty character and its zesty green apple-lemon acidity. Aromatic tart-sour notes tend toward Asian pear and crisp peach that lend this light-bodied thirst quencher a steely mineral crispness. Meanwhile, a sherry-like nuttiness and a touch of clean, honeyed wheat holds the balance long enough for cinnamon-spiced apple to make an appearance in the dry finish. The one flaw that keeps this beer merely excellent? An all-too-ephemeral effervescence.

Take your Berliner Weisse straight up, or with a shot of syrup. Traditional choices are green or red: woodruff or raspberry.

One Tankard.Bild 11

What are some of your favourite wheat beers? What are your springtime go-to beers? Let us know in the comments.

Sources and Further Reading

For all things wheat in Germany, see the German Beer Institute’s entry on Weissbier, and on Berliner Weisse.

Michael Jackson’s The New World Guide to Beer (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1988) contextualizes the Weizenbier style within the broader sweep of German brewing, while his Great Beer Guide (New York: DK Publishing, 2000) focuses on particular brands.

On Blanche de Namur: http://www.bocq.be/english/ownbrands/blanche_namur.php

On the pros and cons of various souring methods, see Michael Tonsmeire’s informative American Sours: Innovative Techniques for Mixed Fermentations (Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 2014).

A brief write-up on the Shelton Bros. website, along with an entry on the Ortsteil der Gemeinde Schopau im Saalekreis, help disentangle the production history of Original Ritterguts Gose and its relationship to Döllnitz.

Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont’s The World Atlas of Beer: The Essential Guide to the Beers of the World (New York: Sterling Epicure, 2012) offers up a visually-pleasing panorama of regions, styles, and labels.

Related Tempest Articles

Gose: A Beer Worth Its Salt

A Coal Town and a Cold One: My Hefeweizen Craft Beer Conversion

Let Us Now Praise Famous Lagers: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.3)

A Taste of Oklahoma in Six Glasses

Brown Beers Get No Luvin’: Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.2)

Your Saturday Six-Pack (Vol.1)

Images

Vincent van Gogh, “Wheatfield at Auvers under Clouded Sky” (1890), Oil on Canvas, Carnegie Museum of Art Pittsburgh. Wiki Commons/Public Domain.

Freising and Vitus. http://weihenstephaner.de

Brasserie du Bocq and Blanche de Namur: www.bocq.be

Ayinger Bräuweisse: http://www.ayinger.de/?pid=262

Choc American Wheat: https://www.petes.org/

Leipzig: F.D. Hofer

Salts: F.D. Hofer

Original Ritterguts Gose: www.sheltonbrothers.com

Jack’s Abby Berliner Style Lager: http://jacksabbybrewing.com/beers/

Berliner Weisse in traditional glass with woodruff syrup: German Beer Institute.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Austin: Twenty Beers and Breweries You Won’t Want to Miss

Another edition of SXSW is upon us. If you’re from out of town, or even if you live in Austin, the plethora of excellent craft beer possibilities can make drink decisions a little daunting. But fear not. I’ve put together a list of some of my favourites so you can easily find both the finest beers and purveyors of those brews. Austin Map 1920 (WikiCommons)

Tankards, Tankards, and More Tankards

How does it all shake out? Three tankards are up for grabs, and Tempest’s Tankards has all the details on how I approach evaluating beer.

A few notes:

  • Austin is awash with some fine beverages. If one of the generally-accepted standouts is not listed here, it’s either because I haven’t gotten around to trying the beer or brewery yet, or because the beer wasn’t in season when I visited Austin, or because the beer didn’t deliver on its reputation (which is not beyond the realm of possibility).
  • If a beverage does not receive a tankard, this does not necessarily indicate that the beverage is subpar.
  • Breweries, brewpubs, taverns, or bottle shops that I particularly enjoyed find their way into these listings after the beers.If a beverage does not receive a tankard, this does not necessarily indicate that the beverage is subpar.
  • Entries with an asterisk (*) represent beverages I’ve tasted in a place other than at the brewpub or brewery, usually at a taproom.

IMG_1917

Tempest’s Austin Faves

One Tankard:

Jester King’s Boxer’s Revenge. This farmhouse/wild-fermented beer (aged in whiskey and wine barrels) delivers a fistful of sour caramel, allspice, and pine needles. Rich and citrusy on the palate, with a pungent mix of oak and Brett. At 10.2% ABV, watch out for this sour beer’s left hook.

*Live Oak’s Hefeweizen. A fine German-style wheat beer that walks the clove/banana tightrope, but a touch light in the mid-section. More malt richness would make this a stellar beer.

Rogness’ Tenebrous Stout. Rich but restrained, this seasonal beer brewed with raspberries offers a harmonious integration of fruit, malt, and yeast character.

*Real Ale’s Hans’ Pils. Clean, crisp, and dry. An austere northern German-style Pils with that characteristic bitter hop note the Germans call “herb,” which combines dry, bitter, astringent, herbal, and spicy into one difficult-to-translate flavour/sensation package.IMG_9550

Pinthouse Pizza’s Bearded Seal is a dry Irish stout that’s a bit potent for the style (6.1% ABV). But that’s AOK because this smooth beverage would make the perfect Sunday morning pick-me-up. Expect a deft aromatic blend of freshly-roasted coffee beans, espresso, and café au lait.

Uncle Billy’s Humbucker Helles. A Munich Helles featuring bready malts with a mild toast accent. Rich and full-bodied, with soft notes of citrus and grassy hops rounding out toasty and fine-grained malt.

Flix Brewhouse’s Brambler Sour is barrel-aged for fifteen months, and blackberry purée is added prior to kegging. Broadly in the Flemish red style, this beer is redolent of bright sour cherry, horse blanket funk, wood notes, and a vinous character reminiscent of Cabernet Franc.NXNW - Grain Silo Mild nutty caramel counters the sour pepper-lemon flavours, while a buoyant cherry/blackberry acidity predominates throughout.

*

North by Northwest is an upscale brewpub to the north (and west) of the downtown core that serves up a compelling diversity of traditional and experimental beers, with food and ambience to match.

Sunset Mini Mart. This bottle shop in the west of Austin ranks among the most pleasant surprises of my visit. The place is a local institution and an absolute gem, especially considering that it’s nominally a Citgo gas station convenience store. If you’re like me and have a fatal attraction to chocolate, you’ll have another reason to stop by. Ice cream, too.

Two Tankards:

The ABGB’s Industry (Pilsener). Hops are a quiet force in this beer, floral-perfumed and spicy. Rich breadiness rounds out the palate of this beer that finishes dry and crisp.

*Argus Cidery’s 2011 Bandera Brût. Sparkling hard ciders from Argus are a joy to drink, and this one is no different. Cinnamon-spiced apple with prominent, hay-like Brett character, and pleasantly acidic.IMG_9578

Jester King’s Ol’ Oi (Barrel-Aged Sour Brown Ale; 2013 Blend #2 that I drank in mid-2014). Who said brown beers were boring? Rich, complex, and with great depth, this cutting-edge tart ale looks to British and Flemish brewing traditions of times past. Caramel-oak mingles with aged balsamic vinegar notes, sour cherry, hay, and the slightest hint of chocolate.

*Real Ale’s Sisyphus. It’s no Sisyphean task at all to drink this smooth and unctuous barley wine. Extended Tempest review here.

North by Northwest’s Holiday Ale. Grab one when it’s released, but hold onto it for a few years. The best ones I sampled had one to two years of bottle age. Three years out and the beer develops interesting Oloroso sherry notes.

*

Craft Pride anchors a narrow Central Austin street packed with bars and a nearby food truck court. This taproom serves up an excellent array of beers from Austin and from Texas more generally. And that’s it.IMG_9607 But this is not a bad thing, especially with several dozen taps dedicated to the finest Texan beer. Knowledgeable serving staff. Great woodwork. And a small but well-curated bottle shop next store.

Jester King. The hype surrounding this local institution is much-deserved. Jester King has garnered national renown for its well-conceived and well-crafted sour and wild-fermented lineup. But you probably already knew that. Side note: Great flat-crust pizza next door at Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. Maybe you didn’t know that.

Three Tankards:

*512’s Pecan Porter. What’s not to like about rich and buttery pecan-maple accents in a well-crafted smoky porter? Roast notes and creamy coffee on the palate, balanced by a vivacious mineral carbonation. Finish is as long as a total eclipse is black.

The ABGB’s Hell Yes Munich Helles. Rich but crisp and refreshing; clean bready malts with a touch of honey and a subtle grassy minerality. The embodiment of finesse.

*Austin Beer Works’ Sputnik (Coffee Imperial Stout). A Texas stand-out. Freshly-ground coffee aromas, Tia Maria, dark caramel malt, and an infinitely chocolaty rich roast on the palate.

ABGB Glass 2*

The ABGB (Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.). Urban beer garden with an amicable vibe; beer hall with a spare, industrial-warehouse aesthetic. Exquisitely balanced beers are the signature of this beer garden/brewery, be they lagers or hop-forward and higher-ABV offerings.

If you’ve been to Austin, share your favourite beers, breweries, brewpubs, taprooms, and bottle shops by clicking “Leave a Reply” above.

Related Tempest Articles

Austin: A User’s Guide for the Craft Beverage Enthusiast (Breweries)

Austin: A User’s Guide for the Craft Beer Enthusiast (Brewpubs)

Getting Your Craft Beer Fill at Austin’s Taprooms and Bottleshops

Images

Austin Map (1920): Wiki Commons

Tankard: F.D. Hofer

Pinthouse Pizza samplers: F.D. Hofer

NXNW: courtesy of NXNW and Kevin Roark

Jester King: F.D. Hofer

Craft Pride: F.D. Hofer

The ABGB: http://theabgb.com

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

New York’s Finger Lakes Region: A Backroad Craft Beer Tour

Waterfalls, gorges, and verdant rolling hills. Eleven long, picturesque glacial lakes carved into the area just south of the Great Lakes during the last Ice Age. Combining stunning natural scenery with a tapestry of interlacing beer and wine trails, the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York is one of the most ideal regions for the adventurous drinker to explore. Long a travel destination for connoisseurs of fine wine seeking Riesling and cool-climate red varietals such as Cabernet Franc, the Finger Lakes is quickly gaining a sterling reputation locally and regionally for its craft beers. A scenic beer route has grown up along the country roads that meander along the lakeshores and connect Cayuga and Seneca Lakes with smaller lakes like Keuka and Canandaigua. Hop farms and fields of barley sway in the lakeshore breeze alongside row upon row of grapes. IMG_7301

You might be asking why the Finger Lakes aren’t more well-known outside of New York State as a craft beer destination. The answer, fellow intrepid beer traveler, is one of the main reasons you’ll want to visit the region. Many of the breweries that dot the landscape are “farmhouse breweries” that have taken advantage of favourable legislation passed recently to stimulate the local hop and malt industry. Production at these breweries is small-scale –– so small that the only way you’ll get to sample the beer is to head to the taproom or a local tavern that might occasionally have a keg or two of Finger Lakes beer on tap. Only a small handful of the breweries in the region bottle or can their beer, and even then, distribution doesn’t stretch much further than a few hundred miles beyond the brewery.IMG_1171

Need another reason to visit the Finger Lakes? I can think of very few places outside of Napa/Sonoma that offer such a rich blend of culinary-cultural activities. You can take in brewhouse and winery tours in combination with visits to hop farms, vineyards, and micro-malting facilities. And you can dine on high-quality local cuisine tailored with an eye toward the wine or beer you’re drinking.

Installment #97 of The Session comes to us courtesy of Erin and Brett at Our Tasty Travels. The Session is a monthly opportunity for beer bloggers and writers from around the world to chime in with their own unique perspective on a particular topicSession Friday - Logo 1. Erin and Brett have proposed that we think about emerging craft beer scenes or destinations undergoing a renaissance. This seemed an ideal opportunity to start working through the stacks of notes I have on the Finger Lakes region. I spent several years living in Ithaca, NY, and return every summer. Over that time, I have watched the local craft beer scene blossom into a flourishing patchwork of small breweries scattered about the towns and countryside. What I’ve written here is the beginnings of a longer work on the breweries, hop farms, and maltsters past and present in Upstate New York.

When I feature a brewery or region in these pages, I usually include tasting notes. In this case, I’ll just list a few of my favourite beers so that I have space to introduce more of the people that make the Finger Lakes and the counties between Syracuse and Albany a region that remains special to me. Stay tuned for longer features of the breweries I’ve written about here, including some not listed.

Without further ado, your whirlwind tour of the Finger Lakes.IMG_0689

Located at the intersection of I-90 and I-81, Syracuse makes a convenient starting point for a tour of the region. Check out Empire Brewing Company for a pint of White Aphro (a Belgian-style wheat beer brewed with ginger and lavender) before making a slight detour out of the Finger Lakes region in search of one of the few pre-Prohibition hop kilns still standing.

Carrie Blackmore of Good Nature Brewing in Hamilton, NY, is a wealth of information about these kilns tucked away along the back roads of Madison County, once the focal point of nineteenth-century American hop production.IMG_0208 Whether you’re a local history buff or not, grab a stool at Good Nature’s cozy taproom in the heart of town to find out more about the history of hop production in the region or sample beers made with hops grown a mile up the road. Unlike many of the other farmhouse-licensed breweries in the region, Good Nature has no plans to grow its own hops or malt its own grain. Rather, Blackmore and her husband (who’s the head brewer) prefer to support the surrounding agricultural community by keeping the new hop farms and maltsters viable. Tempest’s faves: Bavarian Dream Weissbier; Rabbit in the RyePA.IMG_0557

On your way back to the Finger Lakes proper, you’ll want to stop in at Galaxy Brewing Co. in downtown Binghamton. The father-and-son team of Mike and Seth Weisel have made quite a splash since Galaxy’s recent founding, taking home a silver medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup for their St. Stusan Belgian-Style Pale Ale.IMG_0784 Popular among the downtown office workers, young professionals, and the SUNY Binghamton graduate student crowd, Galaxy also serves up inspired cuisine prepared by a chef with a Culinary Institute of America pedigree. The name of the brewery and several of its beers pay homage to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Tempest’s faves: St. Stusan is not the only medal-worthy beer that the Weisels brew up. You won’t go wrong with the luscious Omega Dubbel Nitro or the brooding espresso and dark chocolate-accented Pulsar Porter.

By now you’ll be looking for a place to bunk down for the night, so head to Ithaca on the shore of Cayuga Lake. Long before it’s time to turn in, head to the Ithaca Beer Company on the edge of town for a wide range of beers and Ithaca’s best burgers.IMG_0145 With the surrounding hills framing hop bines and gardens, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque spot in Ithaca to settle down to a pint or flight. The Ithaca Beer Company made a reputation for itself brewing a waterfall’s worth of Apricot Wheat, the locally resonant Cascazilla Red IPA, and a perennial National IPA Championship “Final Four” finisher, Flower Power IPA. But it may well be the Excelsior series –– a completely separate line of experimental releases in 750-mL bottles –– that’ll capture your attention. Tempest’s faves: AlpHalpHa, a “double honey bitter” from the Excelsior series; Flower Power IPA.

Rise and shine! From Ithaca, you can head out to Hopshire Farms and Brewery for drinks with Randy Lacey, one of the driving forces behind what eventually became the farm brewery law.IMG_8756 Hopshire distinguishes itself from other farm breweries with its aspirations to revive the architecture of the pre-Prohibition hop kilns that once dotted central New York. Unsurprisingly for someone so heavily involved with the farm brewery legislation, Randy sees to it that the emphasis falls on local ingredients like honey, cherries, maple syrup, and, of course, hops and malt. Hopshire’s Beehave, a honey blonde ale, and Blossom, a delicately scented cherry wheat ale, are both crafted from one-hundred percent New York State ingredients. Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Randy is the person who got me into homebrewing. Tempest’s faves: Beehave; Daddy-o Scottish ale.

After drinks at Hopshire, head through one of the last dry counties in Upstate New York en route to FarmHouse Malt and Brewery in Owego, where you can hear about Marty and Natalie Mattrazzo’s trials and tribulations turning raw grain into kilned and roasted barley, wheat, and rye.IMG_0170 Be prepared to be fully entertained. Marty and Natalie embody the indomitable spirit that set craft beer on its current course way back in the seventies, and their enthusiasm is infectious. I’m not exaggerating when I say that some pieces of their equipment are genuine museum artifacts, yet somehow they’ve managed to make it all work. Not only are they among the pioneering northeastern micro-maltsters, but they also found time to get a brewery off the ground in 2014. For a Picaresque read on how to become a maltster while also setting up a brewery, check out Natalie’s blog. Tempest’s faves: Marty and Natalie. As for their beers? Ayam Cemani Black Saison; Hog Hollow Belgian-Style Pale Ale.

When you’ve satiated yourself on good beer and lore, follow your compass west along the Susquehanna River to Upstate Brewing Company in Elmira. A Norwich College grad with an avuncular smile, head brewer and co-owner, Ken Mortensen, was a lieutenant in the armed forces before a non-combat injury sidelined him and set him down a different path.IMG_0592 Upstate is unique among the smaller Finger Lakes breweries in two ways: it packages two of its year-round offerings in cans, and, with the exception of a few seasonal brews, its offerings don’t go very much further than that. As Ken explains it, he’d rather focus on consistency at this point and go with a small but high-quality line-up of beers. Bucking the trend of sour this and barrel-aged that, Upstate’s year-round offerings are correspondingly (and refreshingly) unconventional: Common Sense (a Kentucky Common Ale); I.P.W. (an imperial pale wheat); and X.P.A. (an extra pale ale). Tempest’s faves: Common Sense and I.P.W.

From Elmira, you’ll head through Revolutionary War-era towns like Horseheads and lush vineyards en route to Seneca Lake, the longest lake in the region and, at 630 feet deep, the second-deepest lake in the country. Make for Climbing Bines on the western side of the lake, where you can also stop in at wineries such as Herman J. Wiemer and Anthony Road before settling down to a pint among the gently swaying hop fields of Climbing Bines.IMG_0141 After a stint as an elementary school teacher, Climbing Bines’ Chris Hansen returned to his farming roots. His great-grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from Denmark in 1905 and farmed 280 acres fronting Seneca Lake. Today, Hansen grows fifteen acres of hops that go into Climbing Bine’s brews, and sources grain from local growers and maltsters. Brian, Climbing Bines’ co-owner and head brewer, acknowledges that with the smaller economies of scale, “You get what you get, and we figure out ways to work with the unique qualities of the local ingredients.” A Cascade hop grown along the shores of Seneca Lake does not taste and smell the same as a Cascade grown west of the Rockies. Northeastern brewers realize this, and are beginning to produce some compelling brews that bear the stamp of the region. Tempest’s faves: Big Ivan’s Red; Imperial Stout.IMG_1116

It’s just a hop, skip, and a vineyard or two from Climbing Bines to Abandon Brewing Company perched above the western arm of Keuka Lake. The Abandon story begins several years ago when owner, Garry Sperrick, purchased the barn and pastoral land on which Abandon is sited. With nearly eighty vineyards in the immediate vicinity, Sperrick thought something a little different was in order. Why not a farmhouse brewery in a barn? All he needed was a brewer.IMG_1130 Enter Jeff Hillebrandt, who once worked for Ommegang. If Hillebrandt favours traditional Belgian styles and yeast strains, he doesn’t shy away from experimentation. I still have fond memories of a splendid April afternoon before Abandon opened. Jeff had invited me out for a brew day on their pilot system. I arrived to the sound of “Thwack! Thwack!” When I got inside, I saw Jeff smashing up black walnuts with a 2 X 4 for a Belgian-style dark strong beer with walnuts and cinnamon. Whatever works. Then as now, unique hybrids are often the result, such as a Farmhouse IPA packed with American hops but fermented with a blend of saison and Brettanomyces yeasts. Tempest’s faves: Abbey Ale; Peppercorn Saison.

The back-road drive from Abandon to Naked Dove Brewing Company on the outskirts of Canandaigua makes for a quintessentially bucolic outing. You climb a steep hill to the ridge above Abandon, where you can see clear across Keuka Lake and almost to Seneca Lake. From there, the road dips down and meanders along wooded valleys that open out periodically onto meadows and small dairy farms.IMG_1157 You’ll pass through a few small towns and traverse a few more valleys before reaching the glistening shores of Canandaigua Lake. Slung low along a light industrial-commercial stretch of National Route 20 on the outskirts of Canandaigua, Naked Dove’s setting is less impressive than that of Abandon or Hopshire, but the beers are no less well-crafted. The folks at Naked Dove don’t raid the orchard or the spice cabinet for their beers, preferring instead to brew excellent examples of American, British, Belgian, and German standards. Tempest’s faves: 45 Fathoms Porter; Altbier. Alas, the Altbier was a one-off. Here’s to hoping it appears again some day.

Once you’ve slaked your thirst at Naked Dove, it’s but a stone’s throw to Rochester, where a vibrant craft beer scene awaits. I’ve yet to check it out, though, but when I go back to the Finger Lakes this summer, you know where I’ll be heading.IMG_1180

Odds and Ends

Even though I’ve written this article as a day-by-day itinerary, what I’m outlining here is less an actual itinerary than a set of possibilities. In most cases, it would be unadvisable if not impossible to fit in everything I’ve suggested for a given day. Take your time. Drink some wine. Stretch your legs exploring one of the many gorge trails. Grab a bite to eat at one of the many bistros and restaurants that dot the shores of Cayuga and Seneca Lakes. Enjoy.

Related Tempest Articles

Gorges and Good Beer in Ithaca, NY: Vol.1

Ithaca is Craft Beer

The Barn and the Brewery: A Touch of Tradition and a Dash of Creativity at Abandon

Cultural Archeology, Hopshire Style: The Revival of Hop Cultivation in New York

All images: F.D. Hofer.

© 2015 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.