Beerbecue Daycare: Day 1 – Festina Pêche and Gerber peaches

Day 1 of Beerbecue Daycare is under our belt. Nobody was injured, maimed, or lost. I consider this a victory. The Haybag aspires to higher standards, like adequate napping, timely feedings, and regularly changed diapers. Overachiever.

I would say the first part of the day was pretty uneventful. After dropping 1.0 off at preschool, 2.0 pulled an hour-and-a-half nap. For most babies this would not be unusual. But this baby hates naps with the intensity of a thousand white-hot suns. I like naps. The Haybag doesn’t. I’m not pointing fingers or anything. I’m just making an observation.

After taking her in to the Haybag’s office to parade her around (where 2.0 randomly picked who to smile at, who to give the stink eye, and who to scream at), I made it to my first beer around 1pm: Dogfish Head Festina Pêche at the Curious Grape. I figured since I was throwing Gerber peaches at the monster, why not?

Festina Pêche is a Berliner Style Weissbier, which is a sour wheat beer. This one has been brewed with peach concentrate, though. The other two peach beers I’ve had this year (Terrapin Maggie Mae’s Farmhouse (GA) (dry and lightly peachy) and RJ Rocker’s Son of a Peach (SC) (sweet and angrily peachy)) have been missing something. Probably most people would argue that if peach beer needed anything it would be to not have peaches in it, but fruit beers have grown on me a little bit…as long as they’re done right. And I love peaches.

Interestingly, it appears Delaware (Dogfish Head’s situs) has stepped in and been all like, listen up South Carolina and Georgia, this is how you shake your peaches. After all, if Delaware is known for anything, it’s a slew of corporate headquarters and peach groves.

The smell is perfectly peachy, accompanied by wheat and an impending tartness. The taste is the same, with peaches leading the charge, complemented nicely by the wheat, and mercifully backed up by a bracing tartness. This tartness is what the others were missing. It’s never sweet. In fact, it tastes a little champagney at times. The peach is never overpowering. And the acidity is refreshing. And 2.0 agrees, peaches are where it’s at:

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The Haybag: You make Beerbecue Daycare sound pretty interesting, but I can’t help but think it’s a little more like this:

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Dogfish Head Noble Rot: Something rotten in the state of beerbecue

Next up, Noble Rot from Dogfish Head:

Noble rot

This post may be of particular interest to one of my favorite blogs: Liquorstore Bear…a blog written by a wine-loving, ratty-looking, British Columbia liquorstore charity bear with a drinking problem. See, the Haybag has had a stuffed koala bear, Barry, her whole life. And as you can imagine, a 33 year-old bear would be a little worn; but much like Liquorstore Bear, Barry’s lifestyle decisions have left him pretty haggard…nobly rotten, if you will.

So, as a birthday present for the Haybag, I refurbished Barry. After a consult with my Mom and a quilt-blogging co-worker (Elle-mental), I unstuffed Barry, reinforced his weakening seams, ironed on interfacing in severely mange affected areas, washed him thoroughly, and restuffed him. Below are some pics. Warning: They are not for the squeamish. Liquostore Bear, this is your future:

Barry1

Left arm about to fall off.

Barry2

Barry3

Barry4

It puts the lotion in the basket.

It puts the lotion in the basket.

Barry6

Noble Rot is a peculiar beer brewed with pilsner and wheat malts and a Belgian yeast. But that’s where the beer ends and the wine begins. It’s also brewed with viognier grape must (juice, skins, and stems) that was infected with botrytis fungus. Now, before you start worrying about the date of your last tetanus shot, many sweet dessert wines and late harvest wines harness this “noble rot”. It actually reduces the water content in the grapes while magnifying their sweetness and complexity. The second winey addition is pinot gris must intensified by “dropping fruit”, a process where large clusters of grapes are clipped from the vine to amplify the quality of those left behind.

Quite frankly, I think more fermentable sugars come from the grapes than the malts. At times, it actually feels more like wine masquerading as beer than vice versa. It’s identity crisis continues with the pour: A very wine-like, pale, clear yellow. While its white, rocky head reminds you that it is beer, it retreats quickly and sets the stage for beer’s subservient role. It smells like a very wine-like grape and apple (and at times like a sweetish champagne), accompanied by a little musty Belgian yeast character lurking in the background. As for the taste, the sweet, white wine character continues to dominate. Some pilsner malt character makes a brief appearance mid-palate, and the Belgian yeast character jumps in at the end along with a somewhat dry and lightly tart finish.

It’s interesting. I wonder if some Brett would do it some good: Dry it out and give it some funk and maybe a little sourness. Somebody should get on that.

The Haybag: To me, it seems more like champagne than beer. This further deepens my like/really-hate relationship with Dogfish Head.

Thanksgiving Beer Pairings, Part II: We still be all classy ‘n s$%t

It’s that time of year again: Awkward encounters with relatives you haven’t seen all year (for good reason), and spatchcocking your turkey. Of course, what you do with your turkey in the privacy of your own home is none of my business. But it’s not like awkward Thanksgivings are new.

Clearly, the first Thanksgiving wasn’t pleasant. First of all, after the brutal winter, there were only 4 Pilgrim chicks left to cook for like 140 people (who presumably got drunk and watched the Lions game instead of helping).

Second, eating over at the Pilgrims’ place was likely a bigger health crap-shoot than eating at the Moloka’i Jack in the Box. It’s well-documented that Pilgrims were so unsanitary that they smelled like the inside of a sweaty Wookie’s butthole. Further, the Pilgrims’ smallpoxy, plaguey, leptospirosisy explorer predecessors managed to wipe out 90 percent of the American Indian population with disease before the uptight, buckle-head Pilgrims even set foot on Plymouth Rock. So, undercooked meat and food-borne illness might have been the least of the problems.

Evidence suggests that American Indians phased-out handshake greetings in the early 17th century.

So, count your blessings and brighten your day with some solid beer choices. I had a comprehensive post last year that took into account many different food factors. You can reference it here. This year, however, I am keeping it simple and sharing the selections I am self-medicating with for Thanksgiving.

Saison Dupont – This is a Thanksgiving no-brainer. It’s earthy, crisp, grassy, slightly spicy, and ever-so-slightly reminiscent of a barn. It’s bubbly enough to cleanse your palate from the onslaught of the richest and biggest of Thanksgiving foods, and it finishes clean…instead of attention whoring it up and trying to upstage the food.

Stillwater Cellar Door – Another Saison/Farmhouse, but this one is a little more assertive. It’s got Sterling and Citra hops, which bring some spice and citrus character to the game. It has the always complex but subtle Stillwater farmhouse yeast character. And for the kicker: It’s brewed with white sage. This should go well with Thanksgiving dinner, because sage goes well with Thanksgiving dinner. (Note: If there is no sage in your feast, then you’re a communist. And nobody likes a communist. So, if nothing else, this beer will redeem you.)

Dogfish Head Bitches Brew – This is for dessert. It’s 2/3 imperial stout, plus 1/3 honey beer brewed with gesho root, which equals: Who the hell knows, but it’s 3/3 good. It’s got bittersweet chocolate, roast, coffee, and even more complexity as it warms up. It starts out sweet, but it is pretty well-carbonated and roasty, so it finishes almost dry. Which is good, because at this point in the program, the top button of my pants is undone, and I want something sweet but not huge and oppressive…otherwise I would have to take my pants off completely. And that’s not good.

Dogfish Head Tweason’ale: Don’t hate the gluten, hate the grain.

There are several gluten-haters who inexplicably read my rantings. And since only a couple people with a common trait can constitute a significant demographic for beerbecue, we bring you the new gluten-free offering from Dogfish Head, Tweason’ale:

I am not going to pretend to know exactly what-the-hell gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, or celiac disease entails. All I know is that, to varying degrees, your beer consumption is limited…unless you happen to like, among other unpleasant symptoms: gastrointestinal distress, headaches, migranes, lethargy, tiredness…

No, really, your blog is great. I just have gluten intolerance.

Those symptoms sound slightly less pleasant than the other gluten-free beers I have tried in the past. So, with that benchmark in mind, let’s see how Dogfish measures up.

Dogfish Head describes it as a gluten-free sorghum-based beer brewed with buckwheat honey and fresh strawberries.

It pours a red-tinged gold, with a big-bubbled head that recedes so quickly that by the time I got my camera it looked like a glass of strawberry-apple cider. It smells like a slightly-sweet champagne (which the French would probably cleverly call “Extra-Dry”), with some strawberries and perhaps a little breadiness (gasp!). As for the taste, there is a hint of sweetness at the beginning. Through the middle and end it is mostly dry with a slight tartness, and it tastes like Strawberry New York Seltzer mixed with champagne and a touch of honey. Then it mercifully finishes pretty clean and dry. The mouthfeel is pretty thin.

This stuff does not exactly scream “beer”. But I will say that it is the least offensive gluten-free beer I have ever had, by a long shot. I might actually even call it interesting.  I say the gluten-haters should give it a try. That being said, if I was a gluten-hater myself, I would stick with this:

Beerbecue makes no warranty, express or implied, that bourbon is gluten-free. In no respect shall beerbecue incur any liability for any damages, including direct, indirect, special, or consequential damages arising out of, resulting from, or any way connected to the use of any alcoholic beverages, whether or not based upon warranty, contract, tort, or otherwise; whether or not injury was sustained by persons or property or otherwise; and whether or not loss was sustained from, or arose out of, the results of the use of any alcoholic beverages.

The Haybag: Not awful. I don’t like the slight tartness. And it struck me as more cidery/sparkling winey than beery.

Thanksgiving Lineup: money where my mouth is.

Here is the beerbecue Thanksgiving starting lineup:

We stuck to the Thanksgiving-friendly styles, and branched-out to two beers we hadn’t quaffed before.  They are as follows:

Unibroue La Fin Du Monde; St. Feuillien Saison (first-time); Schlafly Biere De Garde (first-time, although the Haybag swears we have had it); Oskar Blues Old Chub; and the Haybag went all rogue for dessert with Dogfish Head Bitches Brew (3 parts imperial stout and 1 part honey beer with gesho root) for dessert.

What’s your Turkey Day lineup (beer, wine, shots, straight from the bottle)?

Subsequent Editor’s Note: Don’t drink Schlafly Biere de Garde with Thanksgiving dinner.  I loved it on its own, but with Thanksgiving food it turned evil.  Stick to their pairing suggestions on the bottle (fruit, cheese, cured meats).

Thanksgiving Beer Pairings: We be all classy ‘n s$%t

As I mentioned, dangermenparenting sent out the bat signal to beerbecue to come up with some good beers for Thanksgiving. That’s right…I said beer for Thanksgiving. What? Do you think Pilgrims and Indians had a bunch of Chateau Lafite Rothschild Bordeaux at the first Thanksgiving? That’s not what I learned in grade school. They had beer, dammit….and this:I received several suggestions from friends on past successes. I will try to give credit to them where possible. So, here we go..

We need something that can hang with heartiness, but not overpower earthy comfort. So for Thanksgiving, beerbecue says: screw the hop bombs for one day out of the year, and go with earthy, sweet, lightly spicy or fruity, or a combination thereof. There are several beers that can fit this bill, and I will throw a couple variations for turkey prep differences, and some dessert selections.

Pretty safe, but very tasty: Latch on to the sweet, earthy, and caramel with a Dogfish Head Indian Brown, a Brooklyn Brown, or, as Tom suggested, a good German Marzen. Or even go a little darker with New Belgium’s 1554 Enlightened Black Ale.

A little more adventurous: Belgian Tripels. These little beauties have a light to moderate sweetness, some fruit (like apple, banana, pear, or oranges), earthiness, and sometimes a slight peppery, clovey, or spicey flavor from the Belgian yeast. The carbonation does a good job of clearing the palate, but the high carbonation can turn some off…like the Haybag. Also, they usually manage to mask their high ABV, even though they aren’t correspondingly heavy. And we all know high ABV can help in dealing with in-laws.

Try any of the following tripels: Allagash (a suggestion from Tony (not the DMP Tony) in the comments to the previous post); Unibroue La Fin Du Monde; Westmalle, St. Bernardus, or even New Belgium’s Trippel, which is now pretty easy to find in the DC-area. Also, some sweeter variations include Gouden Carolus, Weyerbacher Merry Monks, and Green Flash Trippel.

Perhaps even more adventurous: Although typically a Spring and Summer beer, the Saison/Farmhouse style would work. These will be dry, earthy, spicy, crisp, and light-bodied. You can try Saison Dupont (see the poetic description from Tony on Beer Advocate that says its all). Or I can also vouch for Ommegang’s Hennepin. The Dupont has a passing, but typical, barn funk (wet earth and hay), that is worth giving a shot. The Hennepin, on the other hand, lacks da funk.

What funk? I don

Smoked turkey curveball: I think the above suggestions work for roasted or fried turkey. But for smoked turkey (like the beerbecue residence) you might could go for something to stand-up to and compliment the smoke, like Founder’s Dirty Bastard or Oskar Blues Old Chub.

Additional curiosities: Tom suggested Troeg’s Mad Elf (cloves, honey, and cherries…not a bad Turkey Day combo). Ommegang’s Three Philosophers has dark fruit, cherries, and brown sugar (slight sourness from the cherries). Tony suggested Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, which apparently paired very well with a thyme-roasted chicken his wife made (I imagine the Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen-Weisse would work well, too). And Chris suggested Guinness with a Jameson chaser, which gets the prize for most efficient.

Dessert: For dessert, you can go with Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, or any of Southern Tier’s Blackwater Series Imperial Stouts or their Backburner Barleywine. Alternatively, if you don’t want guests sleeping on your couch, you could try Tony’s “lighter” suggestions for dessert: Chimay Blue (fruit, spice, rich malt) or a Unibroue Noire de Chambly (fruits, spice, and slight chocolate).

Uncle Sal had the Chocolate Stout...and a Budweiser.

The Haybag: I give a thumbs up on those Browns. Also, even though ruling out hop bombs is blasphemy in this house, I think we are going to roll with Oskar Blues Old Chub to complement the smoked turkey. And I am cooking, so keep ’em coming, “Uncle Sal”.

Beer Review: A bevy of pumpkin ales, part 1

I don’t typically like gourds in my beer. One exception: pumpkins. So, I thought we could sort through the cluttered pumpkin beer market. By “we”, I mean the Haybag (my wife) and me. And by “pumpkin ales”, I mean:

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin
Dogfish Head Punkin Ale
New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin
Saranac Pumpkin Ale
Southern Tier Pumking

As an initial disclosure, the Haybag and I like pumpkin pie in a glass pumpkin ales…but it’s gotta taste like beer, too.  Otherwise, it’s not like we’re drinking beer, and we might as well just chase a can of pie mix with some bourbon instead (hmmm, note to self…).

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

Me: I remember liking this beer.  At first sip, I remember why: Spices galore, with a hefty, but pleasant, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg flavor. Oh yeah, and some pumpkin. But what the hell is that lurking flavor…like a zippy ginger?  Whatever memory my brain is trying to retrieve, it is not in the happy file cabinet. Egad!  It’s cardamom!  My brain flashes back to this dirty, gingery bastard:

We meet again, old foe.

Ahhh, the Mule. We engaged in a pitched battle one night. You were on special, and I was a student. We’ll call it a draw, even though I didn’t make it home until 10am the next morning. And now Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin is forever tainted by whatever neural alleyway those umpteen Mules reside in…probably in a cardboard box.

The Haybag: How’s that my problem? The pumpkin might take a backseat to the spices, but this is damn good. We’re getting it again.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Me: It pours deep amber and clear, with a small head.  It actually tastes like a beer, maybe because the base beer is a brown ale.  It has a nice malt character, and I can taste the brown sugar, nutmeg, and pumpkin.  There’s something ever so slightly off, however, that keeps it from being my favorite.  I can’t place it, but the Haybag thinks she knows, and she has been claiming this for years…

The Haybag: It’s OK.  But dammit, Sam (Calagione), your Punkin beer tastes like pumpkin-scented soap.  This doesn’t hold a pumpkin-scented candle to Pumking.

New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin Ale

Me: Unremarkable all-around. New Holland mailed this one in like Hugh Grant in a romantic mismatch comedy. Maybe a hint of cinnamon. Where the hell is the pumpkin?  Only redeeming quality: bad ass label. It’s unfortunate. I like some New Holland beers.

The Haybag: Bleck.  This sucks…

Me: …like a Hugh Grant romantic mismatch comedy.

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin

Me: This beer confused me more than that Dukes of Hazard season where Coy and Vance Duke suddenly show up while Bo and Luke Duke are apparently off racing NASCAR.

Straight off the bat, it poured a light copper/orange, much lighter than I expected. I could smell pumpkin and nutmeg…and significant hops (huh?). The taste was big, sweet, slightly pumpkiny, creamy, and hoppy, with a hint of nutmeg.  I applaud them for somehow managing to balance all of this reasonably well.  And at times it ended up tasting a bit like a pumpkin tripel, which is both fascinating and heretical.  But much like that ill-fated Dukes of Hazard season, this beer, although tolerable at times, was ultimately not good.

The Haybag: Sometimes it came off as a bad barleywine. Are we even reviewing this one?  Who are Coy and Vance Duke?

To be continued…Part 2 will include Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Heavy Seas Great’er Pumpkin, Saranac Pumpkin Ale, and Southern Tier Pumking.  And I promise to start posting actual pictures of the beer from now on, instead of greedily slamming it then lazily finding a picture of the label on the Intertubes later.