Monday, August 24, 2009

Beer: It's Not Just For Drinking Anymore

I think I've made it pretty clear in past postings that the only thing I'm more crazy about than cool new beers is cool new books about beer. Perhaps that's because it's legal to get books through the mail in Alaska, unlike beer...

But I digress. I want to turn you on to a great new beer cookbook I got last month as a birthday gift. The Gourmet's Guide to Cooking with Beer by Alison Boteler is just bursting with delicious-sounding recipes, like Irish Lamb Shanks Braised in Stout, Skillet Steaks with Porter and Peppercorn Sauce, Baja Scallops in Beer Batter, and on and on. There are separate sections for everything from appetizers to desserts, with plenty of mouth-watering photos.

Still, I never recommend a cookbook until I've tried at least one recipe from it. This weekend Elaine and I made Pilsner Pulled Pork Sandwiches (p. 169) and the results were spectacular. After putting a pork shoulder in a slow cooker with onions and beer, we let it cook down for about 10 hours on Saturday. Then we took it out, pulled the meat apart (you could do it with your fingers, it was so tender), and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Then on Sunday it's back into the slow cooker, this time on high for three hours, along with more onion, mustard seed, and a bottle of good BBQ sauce. Wow! Amazingly good. We'll definitely be trying lots more recipes from this book.

If this cookbook sounds like something you'd like, you can pick it up from for just under $16.

After smelling that pork shoulder cooking all day Saturday, Elaine and I were feeling pretty hungry, so we decided to head in to St. Elias for dinner, which also gave me a chance to catch up with Zach Henry. First and foremost, his daughter Claire has made a full recovery, and he sends his thanks to everyone for their thoughts and prayers. Second, he had just finished brewing what he called a Special Bitter. He described it as being well-hopped but not as high on the initial gravity as his Williwaw IPA, which makes it sound to me like the Young's Special Bitter that I used to drink pints and pints of when I lived in London. That cask ale was wonderfully hoppy but not so strong that you couldn't drink it all night and still make your way home safely. I'm very much looking forward to trying Zach's take on that style of beer.

I also asked Zach for a complete run-down on what he had currently aging in whiskey casks. He still has another cask of his Jack and the Beanstalk Baltic Porter, he has a barleywine, he has a blended old ale with sour cherries, and he has a beer he's calling a rye bock, which he let me sample. It was a very dark ruby color, with a smooth and interesting flavor. It's still got a ways to go, but it should be very interesting when Zach decides it's ready to face the public.

Later in the evening, I got around to opening a bottle of Midnight Sun's Big Slick Barleywine, the latest in their Crew Brews series. When they say this is a big American barleywine, they ain't lying. Coming in at 11.9% ABV and bursting with 100 IBUs of juicy hop bitterness from Nugget, Simcoe, Chinook, and Centennial hops, to my taste buds this one was very similar to Sierra Nevada's Bigfoot (which is pretty high praise in my book, given that to me Bigfoot is the classic American barleywine). So if you've got a hankering for a really BIG brew, give Big Slick a try.

Finally, there are some interesting new beers appearing on the local shelves. I stopped in at the Soldotna Fred Meyer over the weekend and noticed they had several new ones. I didn't happen to have my notepad handy, so I may miss a couple, but here's what I remember:

Lagunitas Brewing Company's 2009 Correction Ale in 22 oz bottles and sixpacks of their Little Sumpin' Sumpin'

Port Brewing Company's Old Viscosity Ale and their Wipe Out IPA in 22 0z bottles (and on sale!).

Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA in six packs.

These were in addition to their usual selection of good imports and craft breweries, plus good Alaskan breweries like Alaskan, Midnight Sun, and Silver Gulch.

We may not have the same plethora of choices here on the Peninsula as they do at Brown Jug or La Bodega in Anchorage, but things are by no means desperate.

So get out there and buy more good beer!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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