Yeah, last post where I said I’d be writing more? Over a year ago.
Look how well that went!

Current favorite beers floating around…
- Harpoon 100 Barrel, Rye IPA.
Very tasty beer, quite hoppy with a nice rye bite to it. yum.
Pair with anything that can take on the hops. Spicy south-east Asian is especially good, and it went very well with empanadas at a porch picnic on Thursday evening.

- Schlenkerla’s Helles lager.
Not actually brewed with smoked malt, but it picks up a hint of smoke on it’s way through the Schlenkerla piping. VERY yummy.
Pair with lighter flavors, despite the hint of smoke it’s a very delicate beer.

- Cisco Pechish Woods
French oak wine barrel aged, peaches. It gets this amazing vanilla flavor going as well, a really lovely complex and slightly wild beer.
Pair as you would a fruit lambic, I had it against a seared Bluefish fillet, and it stood up well to the oily fish.

More soon? One can hope…

My mother-in-law got me a Little Chief smoker (full disclosure: Amazon referral link. I strongly suggest the front-load rather than the $5 cheaper top-load model for ease of use.) for my birthday this year, and we’ve only used it once so far. Tuesday night we invited some good friends over, threw some pork tenderloins and veggies on the grill for immediate eating, and fired up the smoker for the second time. The first time we used the smoker was back in April on a 40F degree day, and we got some excellent cold smoking out of it. Given that last night was an 80F degree day in the middle of August, I was curious what the final temperature would be and whether we would have been hot smoking or cold smoking. As it turns out the pork belly only came up to 95F after about 2 hours in there, so it was pretty darn close to cold smoking. We even managed to get that lovely red smoke ring when you cut into the meats, so I think we did pretty good!

We smoked (Alder and Mesquite wood):

  • 3.5 lbs home-cured bacon with brown sugar, Grains of Paradise, and Corriander seed.
  • 4 lbs pork chops, brined in Maple syrup and Apple Cider Vinegar with Juniper and black pepper
  • 2 lbs salmon, brined with Juniper and Bay
  • 2 lbs tuna
  • 2 lbs pork ribs (then grilled)
  • 1.5 lbs shrimp in their shells (then grilled)

Ohhhh yummy. Most of these things will get thrown in the fridge or freezer to be pulled out and cooked up for a quick dinner later. The Tuna will get chunked up and made into tuna salad for easy lunches or snacks, and the salmon will almost definitely end up getting cooked up with eggs for breakfasts and brunches.

The Bacon came out acceptably. it was a very thin but fatty cut of pork belly, and the thinner of the two pieces came out much too salty (my fault). It will be excellent used for cooking in other things, but isn’t ideal for eating by itself. The thicker piece though is pretty darned good, and you can really taste the complexity we were going for with the Grains of Paradise.

On the other end of the spectrum, the shrimp were pretty much a total failure. They tasted amazing, but they dried out so much in the smoker that the shells were glued to the meat inside, making them almost impossible to eat. My wife gave up after fighting with about 6 of them, so I soldiered through and finished off the rest of the pound and a half. mmmm…

Smoked food (especially pork) and beer are a match made in heaven, so it’s hard to go wrong pairing this stuff; go with something full-bodied while not too hoppy and your taste buds will dance with delight. Porters, Belgian goldens or doubles, British ales, German Munichs/Oktoberfests/Viennas, and American Ambers will all go beautifully. A Magic Hat #9 to go alongside the maple-apple pork chops would be awesome, especially if you spoon a bit of applesauce over the chops.

Fall’s coming up, which means that smoked beers will be back on my personal menu in the very near future. Yay!

My dad’s a budding beer geek who tends to get stuck on one beer that he really likes and doesn’t experiment much with unknown flavors and concepts. Currently he’s infatuated with Flying Fish Brewery’s short-lived Imperial Espresso Porter, which was originally a limited run released in January ’07 but due to overwhelming demand they did another run of it in ’08. He snapped up two cases (and would have gotten more but demand was even higher the second time around) and hasn’t really tried any new beers for the past year or so.

Harpoon RauchfetzenThe aforementioned father was in my town this past weekend to hang out for a few days before he heads off to the sun-drenched beaches of Maui for a month or two. Rough life. Saturday morning we went to Harpoon Brewery’s noon tasting to check out what they had on tap. They had their full usual range, as well as their current seasonal (Winter Warmer – quite possibly my favorite holiday beer – brewed with cinnamon and nutmeg) and a few special beers. I am here today to share with you those special beers.

Harpoon has a special series where they let one of their brewers have full run of the brewery for a single one-hundred barrel batch that will only be brewed the once. It’s their place for experimenting with unusual styles without having to have a reason. It’s called (appropriately) the 100 Barrel Series. The current beer is the one pictured with this post called Rauchfetzen, which we were told translates roughly to Wisp of Smoke. This is the best smoke-beer I’ve had outside of Bavaria, Germany. The version they had on tap was slightly less smokey than the version in the bottles I subsequently picked up, and had more subtlety to it, but the bottled version is still quite good. Definitely grab a bottle of this if you see it in a store, my wife and I had it last night along side our favorite BBQ (Redbones for the locals) and it went amazingly well. Of course pairing beer with BBQ is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, but still. At the tasting they also had a cask version of this that had been dry-hopped – which was one of my favorite beers in quite some time – but I won’t go on at length about it since it’s only available locally. If you can get a taste of this, do not hesitate!

They also started brewing a new series recently called Leviathan, and the second of the series was on tap at the brewery. This appropriately named series is their monstrously big experimental beers. The first was an Imperial IPA which I heard rave reviews of at the tasting, but had been gone for a few weeks. The new one was a Baltic Porter at 9.5% ABV. It was a very thick, sweet beer that had a bit less roasty flavor than I was expecting. A very solid big, dark beer though.

My father enjoyed himself thoroughly, and tried a bunch of new beers which pushed him in new directions. Did it stick? I don’t know, but I do know that he had fun, asked lots of questions about what he was tasting, and definitely enjoyed the experience. We’ll try it again at a different brewery next time he’s in town.

Last night I took my wife out for a belated birthday dinner. The restaurant was Salts which bills itself as “French influenced contemporary American cuisine” and boasts a nice wine list on it’s web site. We’d been hearing amazing things about the food and it had been near the top of our list of restaurants for special occasions for about 3 years, so we gave it a shot planning to split a bottle of some flinty French chardonnay or Pino Grigio. We got there, opened the menu, and were pleasantly surprised to find a very decent beer listing alongside the wine! Not only that, but they were offering a tasting menu, and would pair it with either wine or beer! Be still my heart…

In the end we decided we weren’t up to drinking quite that much last night, but each had a bottle of Saison DuPont to start (because it goes with ANY food). I followed that up with the chef-recommended Chimay Red to pair with the heartiest dishes in the tasting menu, and it went fairly well with the pork-cheek under halibut, and the steak with mushrooms and bleu cheese. I wouldn’t have chosen Chimay from the many Belgian double options that exist, but that was the one they had available and it was certainly an excellent style to go with the dishes. I’d probably have elected something a little fuller bodied, like a triple or simply a more full double.

All in all a fantastic dinner full of amazing food, and unexpected tasty beer to go with it. Here’s a list of the dishes we were served, as well as I can recall:

  • White asparagus and potato vichyssoise with smoked salmon, faux caviar and dill
  • French white asparagus with house cured jamon, soft cooked farm egg, hazelnut, and aged parmesan foam
  • Citrus and sake-rice cured Hamachi with spring radishes, celery foam, lemon and olive-oil vinaigrette, and shaved black truffle
  • Pan roasted day boat Halibut with braised Berkshire pork cheeks, gremolata with toasted pine nuts, and spring onion marmalade
  • Organic beef Sirloin lightly seared with a bordelais sauce, roasted King oyster mushrooms and a caramelized onion Cambozola “tart tatin” with blue cheese.
    with 4 salts — Australian pink flake, Hawaiian red clay, Hawaiian black lava, and grey smoked
  • Nectarine semifredo with almond cookies and basil ice-cream
  • A “Chocolate Truffle” the size of your fist with a nectarine sorbet, coffee granita, creme fraiche, and crushed cashews
  • The chef also sent out 4 little chocolate-coated peanut brittle truffles, essentially tiny gourmet snickers.

The first few went superbly with the Saison, and as above the Chimay worked well enough with the two heartier dishes. I had an espresso with dessert, although I’d have preferred a nice barleywine (or Dogfish Head 120 minute) with the enormous chocolate dish, and a light Gueuze would have gone fantastically with the nectarine and basil dessert.

I highly recommend doing their tasting menu with beer pairings, it’s a small but excellent list of beer and the food is incredible.

*UPDATE* Corrections made to the food thanks to my wife’s far superior memory.