Beer + Food = Happy!

Beer Pilgrimage: Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco

 

While up on San Francisco this past week to meet up with family there was one thing I just had to do while I was there: go to Mikkeller Bar. So we left our son with his grandparents for a couple of hours and took a stroll downhill from Nob Hill down to the Tenderloin. It was a bright and sunny and an absolutely gorgeous spring weather kind of day this past Monday when we went to go visit Mikkeller Bar.

For anyone reading who is not super familiar with Mikkeller, their beers and why I might just be frothing at the mouth over visiting this place; some backstory is in order. Mikkeller started in 2006 when Mikkel Borg Bjergso decided to take his passion for interesting beer and forego the trappings of starting a traditional brick and mortar brewery and instead go with being what is today widely known in brewing circles as being a gypsy brewer – renting space and equipment at existing breweries to create his product. I discovered Mikkeller beers in 2009 when I got to take part in a tasting flight of Mikkeller’s Single Hop IPA’s. 12 IPA’s with the same base recipe with the only variation being each beer had only one hop variety used in it. As a relatively new home brewer at the time it was a revelation to me in how hop strains can be so much like grape varietals in how they shape the nose, flavor and nuance of a beer. I’ll never forget that experience. So fast forward 8 years and 350+ different beer recipes and you have the Mikkeller Bar.

Mikkeller Bar is located at 34 Mason Street in San Francisco http://mikkellerbar.com/ in the sometimes rough and sketchy Tenderloin area of the city. All we had to do was take a short 15 minute walk, sidestep a few panhandlers and some questionable puddles on the sidewalk and we still had to cool our heels for 10 minutes while we waited for them to open for lunch. Mikkeller Bar S.F. opened in July 2013 and has been on my shortlist of beer bars to get myself into s soon as possible since then.

Mikkeller Bar isn’t just a bar it’s also a pretty damn nice gastropub too. But I’ll come back to that in a minute. The interior is nicely paired down, almost minimal in its decorative disposition with exposed brick, black steel girders, stone bar top and a gleaming 42 tap system eagerly awaiting my first order of beer. I think it’s fair to say the Mikkeller Bar probably has the largest selection of Mikkeller brewed beers on tap anywhere in the country. Oh, and did I mention they have an extraordinarily well curated tap list of beers from some of the best breweries in the world? Yeah, they have that too. But wait, don’t order yet! It goes a bit further; most of the offerings on tap at Mikkeller Bar are so rare as to be practically unique as many of the beers that do get on tap are in 5 gallon kegs. On any given day you could have a change-up of 2 to 6 taps and monthly you could see 20 to 25 taps rotating out. What that means for you is that if you’re visiting like I was you’re certain to find something you’ve never had before and might not see again. Also the Mikkeller Bar tap list is arranged by what temperature your beer is poured at for an optimal tasting experience.

On to the food and beer! We each had one their house made sausages. Amelia had the Loukanika: pork, lamb, cucumber, mint, with caraway yogurt. I had the Muffuletta: mortadella dog, olive salad, provolone, topped with crispy salami. And yes, they both tasted as amazing as they sound.

But the grub would not be complete without the beer. I like big beers and I cannot lie… I’m not usually one for session-able beers and the tap list here at Mikkeller did not disappoint (and hell, we weren’t driving anyway…) and it turned out to be an all-Mikkeller beer kind of day. Amelia had: Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter an American Porter brewed with Yuzu 6% ABV and Limoncello a Tart Imperial IPA breed with Sorachi Ace hops 9% ABV. I had Arh Hvad?! A Brett Saison aged in St. Emillion barrels 6.8% ABV and Big Worster a Chardonnay barrel aged Barley Wine 18.3% ABV. We both shared Mikkeller Black and Imperial Stout 17.5% ABV.

One last thing, Mikkeller Bar also has a criminally ridiculous reserve bottle list if the 42 taps just aren’t doing it for you. Here’s a highlight from that list for you to ponder and salivate over: Mikkeller Black Fist an “extreme imperial stout aged for 2 years in 10-year-old bourbon barrels. 26.1% ABV 375mL Only available for purchase to parties of 3 or more.” Damn…

 

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Beer + Food = Happy!

The American Craft Beer Cookbook- review

The American Craft Beer Cookbook has recipes from brewpubs and breweries across the country. Because these are restaurant dishes they tend to be labor intensive and these were not the cheapest recipes to make. However they were all fantastic. The instructions are clear and the results are delicious. I made 4 recipes: Pork and Porter Hand Pies, Amber Ale Cheese Bread, New Mexican Posole and Imperial Meat Pie. The posole was the most difficult recipe to follow correctly as it called for a couple of specialty items I just couldn’t locate. I improvised and it was delicious but since I couldn’t find the type of hominy the recipe asked for or the type of chili powder in the recipe I have a feeling my posole wasn’t anywhere near the restaurant version. It made a very large batch and we had lunch for a week!

 

New Mexican Posole

New Mexican Posole

 

Amber Ale Bread

Amber Ale Bread

 

The Amber Ale Cheese Bread was probably my favorite. It was certainly the easiest and it made two loaves of savory, delicious snack bread that we ate for a week. It is a batter bread and does not rise very high but gosh it is delicious. I may make this for Christmas presents this year. It reheated nicely in the toaster and went really well with several different meals we had during the week.

The Pork and Porter Hand Pies and the Imperial Meat Pie were very labor intensive. The Imperial Meat Pie had wonderful flavor but I question the use of stew beef in this recipe. Stew beef needs a very long cooking time to make it tender and in this recipe the beef is only cooking for about 25ish minutes and the result was rather fatty and tough. If I made it again I think I would use a more tender cut of beef or perhaps braise the meat longer. Also the recipe called for placing the biscuit dough over the top in one sheet and poking vent holes but I just like to do it biscuit style so that was a personal preference change.

Imperial Meat Pie (photo quite yellow!)

Imperial Meat Pie (photo quite yellow!)

The Pork and Porter Hand Pies were delicious. The crust was a flaky, buttery pie crust and the filling had sweet potatoes and sage as well as pork. Yum! This recipe made the smallest batch but they were very delicious. I did not make these in proper hand pie style (round pastries) instead I made them turnover-style because of my deep seated paranoia regarding filling leakage. They turned out just fine.

All in all this is a great cookbook. The recipes seem very well researched and tested and we enjoyed everything I made. As I said before I would do the beef a bit differently in the Imperial Meat Pie if I made it again but since everything else turned out so well I will chalk that up to a difference in tastes and not a recipe failure.

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Beer + Food = Happy!

Drinking Buddies- movie review

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This is a completely unrealistic portrayal of how Jake Johnson looks in the movie. This poster was clearly constructed to lure in fans of New Girl who want to see more of his work.

A movie review on a beer site? Yes, it’s happening. But only because this movie takes place in a craft brewery in Chicago (I think it was Chicago, we were debating that during the movie. Like everything else in the movie there is not a lot of clarification around this point). So this little piece of cinematic art revolves around a will-they-or-won’t-they story between two friends and coworkers at a Chicago craft brewery (like I said, I think it was Chicago). The cast was attractive and engaging and the acting was fine but the story just meandered around and by the end I was utterly confused as to how anyone had made the decisions that they made. When you are dealing with a story that is a sort of romance you need to understand why the characters do or don’t end up with each other and that was not clear at all. This is frustrating when you consider that the potential relationship between the two characters is the entire thrust of the movie.

So now to the beer. One of the things that got me interested in this movie in the first place was an interview I read with the director, Joe Swanberg, in which he talked about his homebrew hobby and how he got the cast together to make a batch of homebrew so they could better understand the brewing process. I thought that was a very cool team building exercise and it led me to believe beer was kind of important to the story. I mean it takes place in a brewery and the two leads are coworkers at that brewery. Olivia Wilde is in charge of marketing and Jake Johnson is a brewer (I guess, once again, totally unclear). I was very surprised by how little anyone talked about beer. One entire scene takes place in the brewery during a party that is ostensibly some sort of marketing event and NO ONE talks about the beer. It just seems extremely unrealistic. Having been to many a brewery and many a beer event I have heard enough beer talk to last me a lifetime and I still can’t get enough. People who work in breweries tend to do so because they are passionate about beer and brewing. The only nod to the beer was all the beer the characters were drinking and yet they never talked about it. Which is highly unusual for anyone in the beer industry. There was barely a scene in the whole movie that didn’t show someone drinking a beer and you never heard anyone comment on what they were drinking. Even novices at beer tastings get in on the beer talk. They could have taken these characters and had them working in any other industry in the world and it wouldn’t have mattered. If they had been lawyers at a firm you could have told the same story and they would have talked about the law more.

So for the plodding pace and murky character motivations I give it a thumbs down and as far as we beer drinkers are concerned there is nothing in the way of beer talk to make it worth your while.

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Goose Island/Deschutes Class of ’88 Belgian-Style Ale tasting event with Pintley at 38 Degrees Ale House

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Goose Island and Deschutes Brewing recently released their final Class of ’88 brewing collaboration and this past Thursday night February 6th I went over to 38 Degrees Ale House in Alhambra, 100 West Main Street, Alhambra, CA http://38degreesalhambra.com/, to host a tasting event for Pintley that was celebrating the release of this brew. The beer is a Belgian-style strong ale and what makes it double the fun of just drinking one tulip of this tasty beer is drinking two with regional variations in the brew. Goose Island and Deschutes Brewing each created this Belgian strong ale from the same recipe including Pilsner malts and whole Mt. Hood hops. The twist? They tossed the beer in with Oregon pinot noir grapes and Michigan reisling grapes and poured all that into 10 year old Muscat barrels and the beer was aged in for 9 (count ‘em, 9!!) months. Because of variations in their brewing methods each version of Class of ’88 Belgian-style ale has a slightly different coloration and ABV. Deschutes’ version is clocking in at 10.9% (you can read about it here:) http://www.deschutesbrewery.com/brew/belgian-style-ale Class of ’88 from Goose Island came in at 11.2% (you can read about it here:) http://www.gooseisland.com/pages/belgian_style_ale/370.php

It was a drizzly evening so it was perfect weather for a nice, tart Belgian-style strong ale and I paired that with the Menage O’ Pork burger (Ground pork and chorizo patty, bacon marmalade, pepper jack cheese, chipotle aioli, baby arugula, sweet bun). Yes, it was that good. Oh, porky, porky goodness…

I almost forgo to mention what the idea behind Class of ’88 is. Back in 1988 there were five brewpubs that that all became functioning breweries in their own right that year, Rogue, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Goose Island and of course Deschutes. So to celebrate a quarter century of making amazing beers Deschutes partnered with their brewing contemporaries to create three one-off brews.

This was my second time hosting for Pintley and I was really stoked to have reps from both breweries present including Christina Perozzi who is one half of L.A.’s very own The Beer Chicks http://thebeerchicks.com/about/ present to chat up fellow craft enthusiasts (and me, of course) during the course of the evening. If you haven’t tried Pintley yet you give it a try. What is Pintley you ask? It’s more than an app, actually it does quite a few things. So I won’t bother to paraphrase what they do. Instead I’ll just lift their description straight from their website. “Pintley is a craft beer community connecting drinkers, brewers, and bars. Drinkers use Pintley to discover great beer. Pintley learns from your tastes, suggests beers you’ll love, and invites you to free local beer tastings where you can try them. Brewers and bars use Pintley to grow sales. Pintley’s craft beer events help bar managers fill their bars on slow nights, while helping brewery reps gain and keep draft lines. Over 100,000 drinkers use Pintley’s free apps, and we work with hundreds of the best breweries and bars across the country. Our partners include: Stone Brewing, Sam Adams, Great Divide Brewing, Deschutes Brewery, and Flying Saucer Draught Emporium.” Pintley is available for both iOS and Android download here: http://www.pintley.com/ And for full disclosure Pintley is not paying me to host these events nor do I receive any remuneration from them for recommending their app. I do get free beer out of it and I get to meet a lot of cool people and yes, I really do like the app and I use it.pintley1[1]

 

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Beer + Food = Happy!

The Craft Beer Cookbook review- Porter Glazed Asian Meatballs

DSC_0110The actual title of this recipe is Asian CHICKEN Meatballs but the author says you can sub in ground turkey and that’s what I did. In truth, I decided to make this on a whim because I had an extra pound of ground turkey and practically everything else I needed to make the meatballs right on hand. This are designed as cocktail meatballs but I served them as a meal over rice threads with sautéed mushrooms and green onion to round it all out.

A word about the glaze: it is spicy! I liked it like this but since you cook the glaze down and concentrate the flavor you might want to add less than the suggested tablespoon or red chili flakes if you do not like your food very hot. The only substitution I made was to use ponzu sauce in place of the fish sauce. I don’t know if we are in the middle of a fish sauce shortage but I couldn’t find any and I went to 4 stores. It was kind of weird by the fourth store so I decided it wasn’t meant to be.

The cost of this recipe was $2.99 for the turkey, and $4.99 for the porter (Speakeasy’s Payback Porter). Everything else I had on hand so the cost was minimal, probably under $10 for the whole recipe. The recipe does not call for the whole bottle of porter, just 1/2 a cup plus 2 tablespoons.

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The Craft Beer Cookbook review- Porter Braised Pulled Pork Sandwiches

DSC_0101This was an all around hit. It was easy and delicious and made so much pulled pork we were having yummy leftovers for lunch for 3 days. I used Guinness for the recommended stout beer. Sometimes it’s great to go with the classics.

I did make a few substitutions to the recipe, I used regular paprika instead of smoked and chicken broth instead of beef broth. Also in the IPA Jalapeno Slaw that accompanies the sandwich I used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. The IPA I used was Coronado Brewing Co’s Islander IPA. It was terrific but I did feel that on the first day the beer was a bit sharp and it was much better the second day. When I make this again I will make the slaw the day before. And I WILL make this again. This would be a fantastic party sandwich either full size or slider size.

The recipe cost about $20 to make but considering it makes about 12 sandwiches it is pretty reasonable. The breakdown was $8 pork shoulder, $5 beer, $2.50 rolls and the rest was for small amounts of other ingredients.

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The Craft Beer Cookbook review part 2

DSC_1030For this round of the cookbook review I made the Porter Black Bean Soup with Avocado Cilantro Cream. I also made a mistake. On reading the directions I thought I could make this in my slow cooker. The biggest part of the cooking time is 3 hours in a covered pot so it seemed reasonable but it didn’t exactly work. The beans certainly got cooked but there was a decidedly alcoholic flavor lingering. This was corrected by simmering the soup in an uncovered pot for about 20-30 minutes so no real harm here. If you wanted to make it in the slow cooker and finish it on the stove before dinner you certainly could. I think the problem here is that slow cookers have a tighter seal on their lids than pots do and they don’t allow a lot of evaporation.

This recipe came out great. It really is hearty and delicious. The author says it is vegan and gluten free and while it is certainly the former I had to do a bit of checking on the later. According to celiac.com beer seems to be in the “maybe” pile. So if you are gluten intolerant proceed with caution. The trickly-named Avocado Cilantro Cream contains no dairy and so is safe for vegans to consume.

This is also a very economical soup to make. The batch is very large and the cost is quite reasonable. I used Stone Brewing’s Smoked Porter in the soup. The cost is as follows:

Dried Black Beans: $1.29

Stone Brewing Smoked Porter: $5

Avocados: $1.50

Red Bell Pepper: 75 cents

Cilantro: 33 cents

Other ingredients: $2

Total: $10.87

Since this makes about 6 servings the cost is $1.81 per serving.

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LA Beer Bloggers Summit 9: Alhambra is quickly becoming a SoCal Beer Destination

LA Beer Bloggers Summit 2

On a beautiful 80 degree Sunday in January I went to 38 Degrees Al House http://38degreesalhambra.com/ in Alhambra for the LA Beer Bloggers Summit #9 to hear what was new in the world of beer. It was a full line up that day with Dan and Frances from The Full Pint blog http://thefullpint.com/ speaking about how to better get eyeballs to each of our respective blogs and the team from Ohana Brewing Company http://ohanabrew.com/index.php sharing a small flight of their beers and talking about their new tasting room. It was great to see familiar faces in the LA beer blogging scene and also to meet some new peeps as well. But I don’t really want to focus this post about the summit but rather write briefly about why everyone who wants to partake in the Los Angeles beer scene should go spend some time in Alhambra (if you haven’t done so already).

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Located just south of South Pasadena Alhambra is quietly becoming a beer destination for LA county and 38 Degrees Ale House is the reason for it. 38 Degrees started in 2009 and was founded by Clay Harding. Clay also teamed up with Tony Yanow (of Mohawk Bend and Golden Road fame) in the Collaboration series of beer pop-ups that you may have been to a couple of years back. After having forged the way ahead for beer lovers of proprietors a new face in the gastropub world opened a stones throw away from 38 Degrees, Grill ‘Em All http://grillemallburgs.com/ a brick and mortar restaurant from the infamous food truck of the same name.

And then, something new is afoot. Ohana Brewing Company is opening a tasting room and growler fill storefront downtown Alhambra literally right next door to 38 Degrees Ale House. I was told that they are expecting to open their doors in March if all goes well.

LA Beer Bloggers Summit 8

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The Craft Beer Cookbook review Part 1

green beans 1For the first week of recipe testing we chose two recipes, Beer-Braised Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots and Pasta with Arugula, Tomatoes and a Lemon-Beer Cream Sauce. Both recipes were completed in slightly over an hour, inclusive of all steps.

The green beans were great. I hadn’t read the recipe closely before starting and I didn’t realize that in addition to adding shallots to the braise you were also supposed to make tiny little shallot onion rings to top the green beans. I seriously considered omitting them but that seemed lazy right at the start of an experiment so I threw them together and they were great. That is, they were great if you don’t burn them which I managed to do to almost all of them. In the picture you see the few I was able to salvage. For a week night dinner you could easily leave them out and the green beans are great as is.

Each recipe includes a sidebar called “Choose the Right Brew” that advises you what type of beer would work best in the recipe. Based on their advice to choose a medium hopped beer I chose Pin Up Pale Ale by Mother Earth Brew Co. The hops were balanced and not overly bitter and when combined with the bacon fat in a braising liquid they yielded some tasty green beans!

pasta 1Next up came the pasta and I wasn’t too pleased with my beer choice here. The recipe noted that in addition to a medium hopped beer you could make the sauce with a wheat beer and that is the direction I wished I had gone in with it. I chose Double Mountain’s Fa La La La La Winter Ale and the hops didn’t not work well in this recipe. Because the arugula is rather bitter I think the sauce would have gone better with much mellower hops. I look forward to trying this recipe again and using a different beer. I loved the lemon and cream and basil in the sauce and I fully intend to try again.

The pasta cost $6 to make and the green beans cost $5.70. The costs were figured by pro-rating ingredients that were not used in totality. For instance, in both cases the recipes only asked for one cup of the beers I purchased so I didn’t figure the whole cost of the beer into the recipe.

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Cookbook review- A new feature

Starting this month we will be doing cookbook reviews on a monthly basis. During the month we will test recipes from different cookbooks and give you a breakdown of the price point of the recipes, the ease of following the recipes, the time it took and the final product, the recipes themselves. This month we will be exploring The Craft Beer Cookbook, which was just released last year and was a Christmas gift from Mr. Beer+Food=Happy to the missus. Each week we will bring you our breakdown of one or two recipes from the book. We can’t print the actual recipes for copyright reasons but we will discuss the categories we mentioned earlier. When we feature cookbooks that do not directly deal with cooking with beer we will endeavor to offer some beer pairing suggestions.

Here’s to the cooking!

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