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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Beer & Hard Cider

TIP OF THE DAY: The 24 Beers Of Christmas

Off to a good start: the beer advent
calendar. Photo courtesy of Kalea GmbH.

 

Brewers of America: You have been bested by Austria’s Kalea Brewery.

Maybe your beer is better, but where’s your craft beer Advent calendar? The clever folks at Kalea, in Strasbourg, have one.

Or at least, they’ve packaged 24 items in a box for the 24 days of advent. The lucky recipient enjoys 10 Austrian beers, 10 international beers and four beer accessories.

This calendar is perfect as a party gift, early Christmas gift or corporate gift with a company logo printed on the box. We can’t imagine a beer drinker who wouldn’t be tickled gold and amber by this gift.

If you want to create your own beer Advent calendar, start now to gather your 24 different beers: The calendar commences on December 1st. Use this as an opportunity to try 24 beers that you haven’t had before.

 

The one thing Kalea did not do was create a classic Advent calendar with windows that open for the “reveal” of the day (details below).

Yes, it is possible to create an Advent calendar that does just that. Here’s how one clever fellow did it.

What Is An Advent Calendar?

Last month, 246,000 people asked the question of Google. Here’s the scoop:

The Advent calendar dates to the beginning of the 19th century. A tradition begun by Lutherans in Germany, the first known Advent calendar dates to 1851. Its purpose: to count down the 24 days of December until Christmas.

Most Advent calendars begin on December 1, regardless of when Advent is celebrated in any particular year (it’s the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas, which can range from November 27th to December 3rd).

Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means “coming.” It’s a time of waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, on Christmas Day.

Some Advent calendars are strictly religious in nature; others are secular. Some involve affixing colored pictures to a piece of cardboard. Children’s versions have pieces of candy affixed to cardboard.

Early versions were handmade. The first printed Advent calendar was published in 1908, and the now-familiar versions followed, with windows that opened out of the cardboard.

Today, most Advent calendars are made for children: large and festive rectangles of printed cardboard with a different window to be opened on each of the 24 days. The windows reveal a holiday-themed image, inspiration, etc. The more elaborate versions have a small gift behind each window: a charm, a toy, a piece of candy.

Thanks, but we’d rather have the beer.

Pick your Advent calendar assortment from these different types of beer.

  

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PRODUCT: Brew Beer At Home With A Mr. Beer Kit

Make Thanksgiving special: Serve your own
microbrew. CSP Photo.

 

Start this week, and you can serve your own home-brewed beer at Thanksgiving dinner.

We never review products we haven’t tested. So last month, THE NIBBLE office became a microbrewery, as we brewed our first batch of beer in the office kitchen with a Mr. Beer Micro-Brewery Beer Making Kit.

In the fermentation tank (a plastic keg), we combined hopped malt extract, unhopped malt, dry brewing yeast, a packet of fermentable sugars and water. We put the keg in a corner to ferment.

In two weeks, our brew was ready to be bottled for its second fermentation. In another two weeks, it was ready to consume. You can cut the four-week production time down to two weeks, but the beer will be less complex.

Finally, we took our first sip…and were more than pleasantly surprised.

The style was a little on the light side for us, but it’s exactly what most of America is looking for. It tasted fresh and lively—much more so than most beer.

 

We became hooked on home brewing. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s less expensive than buying beer. And everyone will be impressed.

If you use the shorter method of fermenting and bottle-aging (two weeks total), you can make twenty 12-ounce bottles of beer every week. The Premium introductory kit, $49.95, includes everything you need to make the first 20 bottles. After that, buy a refill kit for $17.99 and re-use the fermenter and the plastic bottles to make the next 20 (and on and on) for just 90¢ a bottle.

After you’ve made your first batch, you can experiment with fruit, spices and other styles of beer. All the ingredients to make many different styles of beer are available on the Mr. Beer website (see Refills).

For Thanksgiving, we’re brewing two darker varieties: Englishman’s Nut Brown Ale and Bewitched Red Ale.

Consider Mr. Beer for holiday gifts as well. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, 20 bottles at a time.

For more information, visit MrBeer.com.

Learn about the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.

 

Some of the Premium Kit contents (stein
not included). Photo courtesy Mr. Beer.

 

  

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TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Beer & Sausage Pairing

Take “beer and brats” to the next level.
Photo courtesy National Pork Board.

 

Many of us have had an enjoyable afternoon or evening with beer and bratwurst, likely at a summer cook-out.

But what about taking it to the next level: pairing specific beers with specific sausages: boar sausage, chicken sausage, duck sausage, lamb sausage and venison sausage, in addition to pork-based bratwurst and other pork sausages?

We were invited to an event to do something similar, featuring sausages from some of New York City’s popular French restaurants along with craft brews.

The restaurants are part of the Tour de France restaurant Group, and the beers were paired by the company’s beer sommelier, Gianni Cavicchi.

For fall entertaining, you can do the same thing at home. Beer is a food-friendly beverage; most ales and lagers pair with most sausages. You don’t need a beer sommelier. The fun is in thinking what you‘d like to pair, then trying your pairings.

 

Combine different types of beer with different types of sausage, varying the meats as well as intensity of the seasonings. It’s a memorable way to spend an evening.

Where To Start

To decide on your menu, first cruise the sausage section of your supermarket to see which ones appeal to you. Stick with plain sausage. Added ingredients such as apples or feta will get in the way of comparing the base flavors.

Then, do some research of what beer pairs best with them and create three or four “flights.” You can create more flights, but we prefer to cap ours at four unless the guests are sophisticated beer tasters who already have an understanding of the different styles of beer. Otherwise, it’s information overload (and palate overload, too).

A flight, by the way, is a term used by wine tasters that refers to a selection of wines to be tasted and compared together—wine only or with food. At wine dinners, for example, each course is served with a flight that enables participants to decide which wine they prefer with the dish. You’re doing the same with beer and sausage. Your flights can consist of one, two or more beers per sausage “course.” Again, unless you have a sophisticated crowd, don’t serve more than two beers per flight.

Beer & Sausage Pairings

  • Lighter-Style Pairings. Lighter sausages, including weisswurst (veal-based white sausage) and bockwurst (mostly veal with some pork), as well as chicken and turkey sausage, pair well with lighter beers such as wheat beers (weizen and hefeweizen).
  • Medium-Style Pairings. Bratwurst, a pork-based sausage which can have some veal mixed in, is part of this group, as are kielbasa, knackwurst and sweet Italian sausage. Pair them with ale and lagers. The slightly heavier IPA, India Pale Ale, also works well.
  • Stronger-Style Pairings. More intensely flavored sausages—boar, duck, and lamb sausage—pair well with heavily-hopped beers and darkly-roasted malts. Look for dark ale, double ale and hoppy IPAs. The hops cut through the richness of the sausage, and darkly roasted malt pair with highly-flavored meats.
  • Hot & Spicy Pairings. There’s a wonderful variety of hot and spicy sausages: Cajun andouille, Spanish chorizo, lamb merguez sausage from North Africa and hot Italian sausage. Instead of a heavier beer, find a crisp brew. IPA and lager go well here.
     

    Serve traditional condiments: pickles, pickled onions, relish, sauerkraut and a selection of mustards. German potato salad, made with cider vinegar and bacon, and served warm, is de rigeur. Sweet and sour red cabbage is another favorite.

  • You can also provide rolls. We feel that they get in the way of tasting the sausages, but others prefer them. A green salad in a light vinaigrette provides a counterpoint to the heavy food.

    Don’t forget the pretzels—hard and/or soft. Here‘s a recipe for soft pretzels.

    At The Event

  • Start with the lightest flight and move to the heaviest.
  • Bring the flights out one at a time; but leave them on the table so that guests can go back and compare the flights, as well as contrast the beers with sausages from other flights.
  •  

    In The New York City Area?
    The sausage and beer pairing that inspired this post will be held on Tuesday, October 11th. Here’s the ticket information.

    WHAT KIND OF BEERS SHOULD YOU SELECT?
    Check out the options in our Beer Glossary.

    Find more beer recipes and articles in our Beer Section.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Green Tea Ale To Aid Japan Disaster Relief

    Stone Brewing Co., a California craft brewery known for its Arrogant Bastard Ale and other well-named, well-crafted artisan drinks, has released a new beer to support aid efforts for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster. All proceeds will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

    The Japanese Green Tea IPA (India Pale Ale) is a collaboration between Stone Brewing, Ishii Brewing Co. of Guam and Baird Brewing Company of Numazu, Japan.

    Toshi Ishii, a former Stone brewer, contacted Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele shortly after the Japanese disaster with a proposal to make a beer that could help with recovery efforts. They circled in Bryan Baird, a brewer in Japan.

    The three brewers naturally selected green tea as an ingredient. IPA was chosen as a style that would accentuate the tea’s herbal character. The recipe includes Sorachi Ace, a variety of hops originally developed in Japan, as well as Pacifica, Crystal, Warrior and Aramis, a new hops cultivar from the Alsace region of France.

     

    Drink up and help the Japanese Red Cross.
    Photo courtesy Stone Brewing Co.

     

    The brew has a spicy, herbal hop character that blends exceptionally well with the herbal and grassy sencha tea flavors. The Japanese Sorachi Ace hops provide more spice and citrus hop notes.

    The ale is available in 12-ounce bottles with a suggested retail price of $2.49-$3.49. Find a distributor near you.*

    Party Idea

    Have a party to benefit Japanese disaster victims. Serve Green Tea IPA and collect donations for the Red Cross. You can make an online donation for Japan via the American Red Cross.

    While the March 2011 disaster is no longer in the news, the victims will need aid for many years to come.

    *The beer is available in AK, AZ, CA,CO, FL, IL, KY, MA, MN, NC, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, VA, VT and WA.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Have A Wheat Beer Tasting

    Summertime and the livin’ is easy—with a
    refreshing wheat beer. Photo of German
    Weizenbier by Ukko | Wikimedia.

     

    In the heat of the summer, few people want to drink a full-bodied beer (except in a chocolate stout beer float).

    Summer beers have been brewed for centuries, pioneered by Belgian and German brewers. Recipes were developed to make the beer crisper and more thirst-quenching, with moderate alcohol (lower alcohol drinks are recommended as the temperature rises).

    First, a portion of the malted barley—often 50% or more—is replaced with wheat, which adds refreshing acidity and creates a lighter-bodied beer. The result is a category called witbier, weissbier or white beer, referring to the paler color of the brew.

  • Try a Belgian witbier. Low on hops, witbier uses spice and fruit peel (traditionally, coriander and bitter orange) for flavor and aroma.
  • German Weissbier, weizen or hefe-weizen is brewed differently. German brewers still brew according to the German Beer Purity Law of 1516, which prohibits any flavoring other than hops. Instead, they employ various strains of yeast that generate a wide range of spicy and fruity flavors. These wheat beers are known as weizenbier (wheat beer) in the western and northern regions of Germany, and weissbier in Bavaria. Hefeweizen (“hefe” means yeast) is an unfiltered wheat beer, while kristallweizen (“kristall” means crystal) is filtered wheat beer.
  •  

    American brewers make many beers based on these two styles.

    Get to know wheat beer by having a wheat beer tasting.

    You can have a dedicated beer tasting, or combine it with a cookout. It’s a fun and enlightening summer event.

    1. Check out the selection at your local market. We find that the best number for a tasting is a dozen, but try fewer if you prefer.

    2. Look for imported witbier, weissbier, hefeweizen and kristallweizen. American brews are called wheat beer or summer beer—for example, Samuel Adams Summer Ale. It’s brewed with malted wheat, lemon peel and grains of paradise (melegueta pepper), a rare African spice related to cardamom that was first used for brewing in the 13th century.

    3. Set the beers on a table with small tasting cups (two-ounce plastic cups work well).

    4. Do some online research and print out descriptions of each beer, including name and price. Tape them onto the table in front of each beer.

    5. Provide index cards or blank paper, plus pens, so guests can write down their favorites along with tasting notes.

    Catch up on the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.

      

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    PRODUCT: Trivia Cocktail Napkins

    Trivia napkins break the ice or stump your
    friends. Photo by Jaclyn Nussbaum | THE NIBBLE.

     

    If your party guests don’t know each other, breaking the ice can be the first order of the day.

    Trivia Party Starters prints cocktail napkins that entertain your guests and get them to interact.

    We chose Beer and Wine versions, but there are 12 subject categories that include Baby Shower, Celebrity, Christmas, Comedy Movie, Sports and TV Sitcom, among others.

    While they’re a bit pricey, at $5.99 Canadian/$6.23 U.S. for 20 napkins and 40 different questions—two questions per napkin—you only need one pack to get the party started.

    You can also make a game out of it, playing “Napkin Trivial Pursuit.” The person who collects the most napkins wins…a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer.

    Check ‘em out at Trivia Party Starters.com.

    P.S. What vitamins does beer contain?

    Answer: All of the important B vitamins, plus vitamins A, D and E. More about beer nutrition.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Tasting Beer

    Do you enjoy drinking beer from the bottle?

    If so, you’re not enjoying the aroma, which needs to waft up to your nose from a glass.

    Those who love their beer should emulate wine aficionados, and take the same steps to enhance the experience.

    1. Look: Enjoy the color of the beer, and learn to recognize different styles of beer based on their color. Carbonation is also important. Beer is brewed for immediate consumption. Lack of sufficient bubbles can indicate flatness that comes with age.

    2. Smell. Inhale the aromas from the glass. For example, are they floral, hoppy, malty, nutty, spicy, sweet?

    3. Sip. Let the beer flow over your palate and focus on identifying the flavors: bitter (hoppy), fruity, malty, nutty, spicy, sweet, woody, yeasty (and a host of over terms)? What about the body (also called mouthfeel)? Is it full, medium or light?

    Each beer drinker has his or her own preferences. Even if you think you know what you like, when you learn to properly taste beer, you’ll come to like even more styles and flavors. You can seek out beers that match them by reading reviews.

     

    A glass of stout. Photo by Dan Hauser | IST.

     

    To get deeper into beer tasting, see this comprehensive page of beer tasting information from the Birmingham Beverage Company. Scroll towards the bottom to see the Beer Tasting Wheel: all of the flavors and aromas of beer, and where they come from. It’s a huge help in understanding the flavors and aromas of beer—both good and bad.

    Don’t twist your neck trying to read the chart: The details are printed underneath it.

    As you enjoy your beer, check out the different types of beer in our Beer Glossary.

      

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    RECIPE: Biramisu, A Beer Dessert

    Biramisu: tiramisu with a porter reduction.
    Photo courtesy Portobello Restaurant |
    Orlando.

     

    Love tiramisu? Love beer? Combine them in this novel recipe, called Biramisu.

    It could be a big hit on your Father’s Day menu.

    The beer-accented dessert was created by Chef Tony Mantuano (Chef/Partner at Spiaggia Chicago and a Top Chef Masters contestant) as a collaboration with Executive Chef Steven Richard of Portobello Restaurant in Orlando, where it is on the menu.

    The recipe uses an organic porter from Orlando Brewing, but you can substitute another porter or a dark ale with coffee and chocolate notes.

    Get the recipe.

    For another beer dessert, check out our Chocolate Stout Float.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Mix Up A Half & Half Arnold Palmer Or Shandy

    When you think of a refreshing warm-weather drink, do you think of beer, iced tea, lemonade, ginger ale?

    If you mix two of them together in a half-and-half drink, you’ll create a summer refresher: an Arnold Palmer or a Shandy, depending on the recipe. You can purchase them ready-bottled; but like most things, homemade tastes better.

    The Arnold Palmer
    Combine equal amounts of homemade iced tea and lemonade in a tall glass. You can vary the proportions if you prefer one flavor over the other.

    The drink, also known as a half and half, is named for golf legend Arnold Palmer. It was his soft drink of choice, and is popular enough that Country Time and Sweet Leaf, among other companies, bottle it.

    Mix your alcohol of choice into an Arnold Palmer and you get a John Daly. According to Golf Digest, Mr. Daly is not at all happy about this, claiming copyright infringement.

    To give you some ideas about how the recipe has expanded, AriZona Beverage Company sells six variations: Lite Iced Tea & Lemonade, Zero Iced Tea & Lemonade, Lite Green Tea & Lemonade, Pomegranate Green Tea & Lemonade, “Southern Style” Sweet Tea & Pink Lemonade, and Peach Sweet Tea and Lemonade.

     

    A Shandy is half beer, half carbonated lemonade or ginger beer. Photo by Milos Luz | IST.

     

    Shandy
    Shandy, short for shandygaff, is a beer diluted with a non-alcoholic drink: ginger beer, ginger ale, carbonated lemonade, citrus-flavored soda, or cider, for example. We prefer ginger beer or Mike’s Hard Lemonade (which, at 5.2% ABV, does no diluting!).

    The proportions are half-and-half; but as with an Arnold Palmer, they can be adjusted to taste.

    Fentimans, a U.K. brand sold in the U.S. (and a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week), bottles a lemonade-based Shandy made of a 70%-30% mixture of beer and carbonated lemonade with a 0.5 ABV (1 proof). The lower proportion of beer enables it to be sold as a soft drink.

    The origin of the term “shandygraff” is unknown; it first appeared in print in 1853. Shandy is a surname in the U.K.; and in Ireland, the name is a variant of Shaun (John). Graff is an old term for steward or overseer. Perhaps the drink was first mixed up by a steward named Shandy?

    You don’t need a graff: Mix up your own Arnold Palmer or Shandy. Have an AP & S party and let guests create their own variations.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Samuel Adams Longshot Homebrew Variety Pack

    Last fall, Samuel Adams made dreams come true for three homebrewers, who were named at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

    More than 700 hopefuls entered their beers in the annual Samuel Adams Longshot American Homebrew Contest. The main contest is not open to employees of Samuel Adams’ maker, The Boston Beer Company. Instead, they compete in a separate, in-house competition, with equal prizes.

    The prize is the experience of brewing their beer at the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston, alongside the professional brewers. Their beer is then distributed in a Limited Edition—with the winners’ photo on the bottle. And there’s some cash: a $5,000 royalty for their recipe.

    Given how many different brews Samuel Adams already makes (more than 40), entrants are encouraged to incorporate unusual ingredients into their recipes.

    The winning beers are now available nationally in the 2011 LongShot Category 23* Variety 6-Pack, two bottles of each of the winning recipes, at a suggested retail price of $9.99:

     

    The Samuel Adams Longshot six-pack with our personal favorite. Photo by River Soma | THE NIBBLE.

     

  • Friar Hop Ale from Richard Roper of Georgia
  • Blackened Hops Beer from Rodney Kibzey of Illinois
  • Honey Bee’s Lavender Wheat Beer from Caitlin DeClercq of California, the Samuel Adams Employee Homebrew Winner
  •  
    *Category 23 is a judging category for beers whose ingredients are so unusual that they don’t fit into the other categories.

    THE SCOOP ON THE SUDS

    Friar Hop Ale
    Richard Roper created a hybrid of two styles: a big hoppy IPA and a fruity Belgian ale. The caramel sweetness of a Belgian ale is enhanced with big, citrussy hop reminiscent of an IPA. The beer has universal appeal; but rather than have a second, we tried a different style.

    Honey Bee’s Lavender Wheat Beer
    We loved the idea created by Caitlin DeClercq, a member of the Samuel Adams sales team. She brewed a wheat beer with dried lavender petals, honey and vanilla. We’re a flavor-forward fan: While a delicious wheat beer, the lavender, honey and vanilla were too subtle for us. (“Flavor forward” is the opposite of subtle and delicate. It means that the flavors assert themselves to the point where they are easily recognized. It’s a style preference, a positive term not to be confused with “heavy-handed” or “overdone,” which are negative terms.)

    And now for our favorite among the winning trio:

    Blackened Hops Beer
    Blackened Hops Beer made by Rodney Kibzey is one we’d buy again and again. With deep roasted malt character and both citrusy and piney American hops, this dark beer is both profound and refreshing. Its black color hints at roasted malt and coffee flavors. We love hops, but this beer will appeal to the non hop-heads in the crowd. This is Rodney’s second LongShot American Homebrew Contest win. His Weizenbock was included in the 2008 LongShot Variety Pack. Rodney, we’ll gladly stop by any time for a taste of what’s brewing.

    Bravo to to the winners and to all of America’s homebrewers.

  • Learn your beer types in our Beer Glossary.
  •   

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