La Bodega gifted us with a beer from Estonia this month. Estonia! If you’re like me, here’s a map to paint a clear picture.
What I found more interesting was Chris Pilkington of Scotland’s Brewdog joined the Põhjala team. The creative collaborations are going to be endless.
The beer itself was dark brown and opaque. The scent was fruit and molasses. The mouthfeel was surprisingly light and the first taste was also surprisingly syrupy. The second tasting gave me a more complete picture. The malt comes in and balances the sweet. Cocoa and coffee flavors abound, but lean toward a bitter finish.
I think this was a beer which would have been better after a sturdy meal. Even the bottle says to enjoy “as a dessert at the end of a decadent meal”. I feel that if given enough food flavor, this porter would cut through and finish the evening quite nicely.
Belching Beaver has been impressing me for a while now so I was excited to try Tastes Like Space when Derek brought it home. (Gifts like this keep a marriage happy.)
TLS is a stout with caramel flavor and cocoa nibs added. The pour provided a rich dark color and decent head that dissipated quickly, and it had a delicious chocolate scent. The first sip was sweet at the front and a bit bitter at the finish. Not bitter in a bad way, just in a well-rounded way. I’d venture to say the initial taste is caramel and the finish is nib.
The can reads “store cold drink fresh”, but we enjoyed this brew at room temperature. I think it really let the caramel and chocolate notes shine through.
We are big fans of Sam Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout. This one is very similar. I can’t wait to try mixing it with a Cherry Lambic. (If you haven’t tried this, do so now. Thank me later.)
This beer is out of Tennessee. It’s by VonSeitz TheoreticAles. It’s a gruit with rosemary, savory, and marjoram. It’s actually a very complicated beer. I recommend you check out the brewers website. (See below.)
According to our friends at La Bodega, this was supposedly not too sour. After the first pour, the smell said sour patch kids had an accidental baby with those cheap sour rings you get at gas stations. I persevered.
Syrup-yellow brown color, not auburn, is how I’d describe it. It was very distinctive. The mouthfeel was really nice and effervescent. I prepared for the worst, but the initial sip was not bad. It was actually pleasantly lambic in nature.
I grew braver on the second sip and let things swish. Tart but sweet. Maybe sour patch kids were in a committed relationship with gummy bears.
Thank goodness for the bubbles. They really took the flavors and rushed them around. It gave this brew the lightness it needed. Otherwise I think this would be close to barley wine. I don’t think I’ll repurchase, but I recommend this highly, especially to those sour beer lovers out there.
Yes, it’s January. Yes, there’s snow on the ground. No, this was not a timely post. BUT I still think it’s worth mentioning this one. Surly Brewing Co.’s Zwart Black Star 8 is a Brewmaster’s collaboration between Ben Smith, Jerrod Johnson, and Dirk Naudis of De Proef Brouwerij.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie
I received this ale as part of my monthly beer club from La Bodega. While I’m not always a fan of what I get as a member of this program, I can always rest assured the beers are unique. This collaboration was not a disappointment in that arena.
The ale was bright amber in color. The note of star anise was nice, but the Brett was not. I’m just not a fan. I’ve tried so many Brett beers and my tastebuds are still very much against them. After pour, there was a really nice head, and a pleasant aroma. The first taste was sour and sweet. More than one sip proved this a complicated beer. I actually really liked the first notes. I dared to swish it around in my mouth and I got sweet, sour, and decent effervescence. Overall it was pleasant if not for the Brett. Brett fan? Run and grab this beer.
Little tidbit: this was named after Bowie’s final album “Blackstar”. My mother had a major thing for Bowie. She’s a very proper person, but when I was growing up she’d drop hints. I think the most scaring moment for me was when, after watching the movie Labyrinth, she announced that David Bowie should always wear tights as pants. Wowza. The only thing I could do to cope with the blow was wait until I had children, let them watch Labyrinth, and then let them know about Nana’s desires. Done and done. You’re welcome S and L.
To prove how much I love my mamma, and how I really did recover from too much information, here are some gratuitous shots of the man. Although, please note the Labyrinth photos have been omitted. I can only handle so much.
Arkose Brewery is a favorite of Derek’s and mine. It’s located in Palmer and has been open since 2011. It was nice to see them get a shout-out in my beer club selections from La Bodega. Included was Mandarina Moose Grapefruit IPA.
“Austin and I proceeded to knock back a couple of Ketel One and grapefruit juices, which happened to be my drink of the moment. Someone told me that grapefruit was a great detoxifier and I decided I wanted to start cleaning out my liver WHILE I was having a cocktail.” -Chelsea Handler
My husband, Derek, doesn’t care for citrus beers, so I knew I’d get the lion’s share of this one. On this particular occasion, he was out of town, so I left all beer-drinking guilt behind and popped the top of what I hoped would be a citrus treasure.
When poured, there was a lot of white, fluffy head that quickly diminished. It was such a lovely burnt orange color I had to hold it up to the sun and take the picture you’ll see below. There was a strong grapefruit smell, but the taste was not overwhelming. A bitter zing hits the back of the throat, and is balanced by a sweetness which hits the tongue and cheeks. The mouthfeel consisted of a light coating and medium carbonation. I didn’t love the finish, but it was a really solid IPA…with a twist.
I received a real surprise in my beer club selection from La Bodega– Agrarian Hop Farm Ales Cherry Bomb Chile Porter. The “cherry” part concerned me a bit. I’ve had other cherry offerings that were very tart. I was, however, intrigued by the “chile” part. I was further encouraged when I read the bottle and learned the chiles were from the brewery’s neighbor. It’s nice to be able to get fresh chiles right next door!
The label gave a very accurate pitch. There was only a slight head once poured, and the color was a deep ebony. There were smells of dark coffee and pepper. I will concede that I love pepper beers, and the scent may only have been detectable to me due to that. The mouthfeel was thick and almost syrupy, but without any sense of barleywine. Although it coated my mouth well, I did wish it was a bit lighter. A low carbonation made the chile heat slightly more interactive on the palate.
They’ve done it. They captured all the heat of the chile without the taste. Damn. Derek and I have been trying for over a year to accomplish that. I give them serious kudos.
Derek found the porter to be a bit sour with a pleasant heat after swallowing.
“Deb Perelman, award-winning blogger and New York Times best-selling author of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, understands that a happy discovery in the kitchen has the ability to completely change the course of your day. Whether we’re cooking for ourselves, for a date night in, for a Sunday supper with friends, or for family on a busy weeknight, we all want recipes that are unfussy to make with triumphant results.”
I love unfussy meals and triumphant results, so I readily flipped through the pages immediately after receiving the book. There were so many meals that sounded delicious and flavor packed. More than one recipe called for lemon to stand out as the star flavor. I love dishes with lemon highlighted. I began to ponder how I could make a lemon-centered meal even more lemon-y without the pucker.
Lemon preserves! Yes, the intense yet smooth taste of a preserve. The problem? I had no idea where to get them. The solution? Make them. How did I make them? Pinterest! I found a recipe on Serious Eats that seemed simple enough. I would just need three ingredients and a canning jar. (I will let you travel to their site for the recipe as I didn’t change it at all.)
The lemons were prepared quickly, needing only minor trimming and cutting. I then added sugar and salt and let them sit in the refrigerator overnight. The next day they looked so pretty! It was almost like they had been coated in a sweet glaze. The step that followed was to simply jam them into a jar with their liquid. Done, and done.
Finally, I had to wait two weeks. This was the hardest part as I am not patient in any way. Seriously, Derek can back me up on this.
Star of the Show
Those who are loyal readers will know I have problems with commiting to food and drink. I love experimenting. So, when I received a new cookbook days before my lemon preserves would be ready, and there was a delicious sounding recipe which included them, I had to run with it. It was a sign! (“The Smitten Kitchen” did provide other tasty meals over the two-week waiting period though.) The meal I picked was Pasta with Summer Squash, Sardines and Lemon Preserve. My new cookbook was “Back Pocket Pasta” by Colu Henry. Here’s Amazon’s description:
“As much a mindset as it is a cookbook, Back Pocket Pasta shows how a well-stocked kitchen and a few seasonal ingredients can be the driving force behind delicious, simply prepared meals. Pantry staples—a handful of items to help you up your dinner game—give you a head start come 6pm, so you can start cooking in your head on the way home from work.”
The recipe included a few simple ingredients that would, I hoped, highlight the extra pleasant flavor of lemon. My only holdup were the sardines. I remembered eating them from the tin when I was little. (My dad and I would try to gross out my mom with those and spray-can cheese…I know…ick.) At the time, the shock was way more important than whether I actually liked them. At 39, I couldn’t remember the actual flavor at all, so I was letting the tiny little fish creep me out a smidge.
Remembering adventure is worth it, even if it results in failure, I jumped into preparation with gusto. I also hid the tin from my family. They aren’t as adventurous as me all the time. I figured surprising them would be more than ok.
The lemon preserves themselves had turned into glossy lemons with a bit of a gelatinous texture. The peel and meat had melded into a yellow slice that could still be diced with a knife. I tasted a piece and it was lemon, salt, and sweet- a perfect balance on my palate with lemon that really lingered. I felt the first feelings of success.
The meal came together easily. The finished product was a light pasta dish perfect for springtime. The sardines added a saltiness, and the squash and lemon preserves were the stars of the show. I would make it again, and my family even encouraged it. (And this was after they were in on the “surprise”.)
I’ve been trying to be more aware of what I purchase lately. Part of this is shopping local. I happened to find Mat Su Farm Co-Op and ordered a variety meat pack from them. The only hurdle was I couldn’t bop down to the store and pick it up; I had to go out to Palmer which was an hour away. Thankfully, Palmer is also home to two favorite breweries- Bleeding Heart Brewing and Arkose Brewing. Derek and I decided to make it a meat-grabbing brew tour.
We picked up our package seamlessly from a Co-Op representative and drove over to Bleeding Heart. To our dismay, they didn’t open until 3 PM and it was only 2 PM. Before driving over to Arkose, we used our handy tech devices to discover they weren’t open on Sundays.
We were clearly early to the Palmer party.
In what ended up being a very fateful decision, we drove over to the Palmer Alehouse to see what was on tap and waste an hour. It was here we noticed Matanuska Brewing Company on the menu. What?! Again, our tech devices came out and we quickly learned the company had opened with their first beer on Valentine’s Day. They also had a tasting room that was open. As if we didn’t have enough luck, the location was a block away from the Alehouse. Fate my friends. Fate.
While at the Palmer Alehouse we tried the following two Matanuska Brewing Company beers:
Snow Bike White: ABV 4.76% IBU 15
The white came with an orange, was light in color, had no head, and low fizz. It was visually promising. My first sip delivered a very light flavor with a very slight bitter aftertaste. I tasted again. It was dangerously close to water. Not wanting to be a “hater” I asked Derek to try it. He reported back that it was indeed forgettable.
We speculated the brewery was trying to be super commercial, which I can understand. I’m just not interested in commercial. More on this to come…
(Derek’s) Sky Cab Gold Pale Ale: ABV 5% IBU 20
It was golden and clear, and not overwhelmingly hoppy in aroma or taste. The Sky Cab was a no-frills, mellow pale ale. The first taste was the most powerful but then it mellowed out into a refreshing thirst quencher.
Since we knew the tap room was open, we decided to head over to get a better assessment. After all, it was a great thing to have another brewery in the valley. The employee up front was nice and knowledgeable, and she got us pints within minutes of entering. The tap room doesn’t offer flights, but have $4 pours! Their price point can’t be beat.
Long Track IPA: ABV 6.7% IBU 55
The Long Track was a hazy gold with decent head. It had a great hop smell and taste. It was a smooth drink so a growler came home with us.
Pack Raft Red IPA: ABV 7.2% IBU 65
Pack Raft was a beautiful red. It’s easy drinking with malt flavor and notes that hit the front and middle taste buds. This was placed on Derek’s short list for a future 6-pack purchase.
There were more than a couple fun elements inside the tap room. First, there was a beer vending machine. Second, their bathroom decor and sign. (See picture below.) Finally, their merchandise room was full of the usual T-shirts, but also things like Hydoflasks.
Matanuska is local and nostalgic with their artwork and utilization of the old MatMaid building, yet their beers have a commercial taste. I can tell they have a grand vision and they have the space and equipment to pull it off. Derek and I were expecting more creativity from a brewer with over 20 years of experience, but I don’t think we’re their intended audience. I truly believe they are looking to compete with Miller, Coor’s, and Bud. Best of luck to them.
Ahem… My name is Traci and I’m a label whore. I couldn’t help but purchase this beauty once I saw it. The artwork, the name, the story! A big part of me was aware as I grabbed the 2017 Employee Homebrew Competition winner that it might not be quite my taste. Actually, I was pretty sure things would end in tears and I’d never drink tea again. Worry pushed aside by perfection in font, I continued down my path. I hope you enjoy reading about my findings.
This ale was a stunning dark amber with low clarity. I initially took a big sniff because I love the smell of tea, but was met with only beer smell. Sorry tea lovers. My first sip revealed a strong yeast flavor and smoke. I hate smoke. (Crying emoji here.) The drink finished with a bitter coffee-esque aftertaste. It’s heavy like a Monday morning.
Don’t like yeast. Don’t like smoke. Don’t like bitter. Didn’t like this beer.
That said, these guys should be proud of pushing boundaries. This was full of unique flavor. I will drink tea again, and I will purchase more pretty cans in the future. I now have the added mission of finding a tea-beer I actually like.