Monthly Archives: September 2009

Beer Cheddar Soup

Dish number two in my famed beer dinner series is Beer Cheddar Soup.  I hadn’t had too many, if any, Beer Cheddar Soups before, but I was excited to give it a try because beer and cheese are two of my favorite things.  The combination sounded mouth wateringly magical to me.

Our soup simmering on the stove

Our soup simmering on the stove

We used a five year old sharp cheddar and, again, Central City’s Red Racer Pale Ale.  The recipe we started with was found online here, but we (those actually cooking, not me) made some alterations.  We meant to add bacon, but ended up forgetting it.  We also left out the leeks, mostly because we didn’t have any.  Here is the recipe that we used:

Ingredients

  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (14 fl oz)
  • 1 (12-oz) can of Central City Red Racer Pale Ale
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 lb 5 year aged Cheddar, grated (4 cups)

Preparation

Cook carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf in butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderately low and sprinkle flour over vegetables, then cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add milk, broth, and beer in a stream, whisking, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper.

Add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly, and cook until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes (do not boil). Discard bay leaf.

Our soup was very delicious, you could really pickup the sharpness of the aged cheddar, which balanced out the richness of all the added fats.  The flavor of the beer was also apparent, contributing positively to the soup.  Our gracious host thought our soup compared favorably to the one he regularly orders from Big Ridge, success!

Cheers,

Chris

Beer Can Chicken

Some friends and I conglomerated on a beer themed dinner last weekend.  We made beer can chicken, beer cheddar soup, beer battered fries, salad (lame), and beer floats.  By “we made”, I mean that I mostly stood around and watched while others with more skill actually cooked, although I did get the token easy job here and there.

This week I’m going to blog about each dish (except for the salad) and share with you the recipe we used.  First up, Beer Can Chicken…

Beer Butt Chicken

Our cooked beer butt chicken, so tasty...

Personally, I prefer the name Beer Butt Chicken over Beer Can Chicken, but that isn’t really very important.  I’ve previously blogged about beer and chickens, so we used the same recipe I’d previously posted.  Why mess with success, right?  If executed correctly, this recipe produces a wonderfully moist chicken that almost falls off the bone; the skin will also be delightfully crisp and tasty.  This is a very easy recipe, but be careful not to miss the crucial step of drinking one and half beers before getting started.  We used Central City’s Red Racer Pale Ale as our beer stuffing/stand because it is both cheap and delicious.  One pitfall to avoid would be dumping the beer into the drippings when attempting to remove the beer can from the chicken.  I did this and the gravy we made from the drippings ended up being more bitter than the beer itself.  Luckily, our chicken was so good that we didn’t need the ruined gravy.

As for the recipe itself, you should try it because it is really easy, very tasty, and it seems impressive.  Here it is:

  1. Season the whole chicken (skin on) with salt and pepper.  Chop some rosemary and thyme and rub it on the dry chicken.  Take a few rosemary springs and shove it under the breast skin.
  2. Drink one and a half beers (minimum) – leave half of one beer in the can and put some of the fresh herbs used in the rub into the can.
  3. Get a chicken stand and put the beer can into it.  Shove the stand with the can in it into the chicken’s butt.
  4. Turn one side of your BBQ on and leave the other side off – you want a convection oven effect. Once up to 350F put the bird on the off side of the grill.  Cook for one and a half hours or when you hit 165F internal temperature.  Rotate the bird once or twice during the cooking process.
  5. Once done, wrap the chicken in foil and let is rest for 2o minutes or so before carving.

It should be noted that we didn’t use a chicken stand.  We stood the can holding the chicken on a pan to catch the drippings for gravy purposes, which worked just fine.  I wouldn’t put a can right onto the BBQ for stability reasons.

Cheers,

Chris

Canadian Brewing Awards 2009 Winners

The winners of the 2009 Canadian Brewing Awards were released this week with some interesting results.  We at this blog are not particularly into awards.  We prefer to drink the beer that tastes the best, not the beer that wins the most awards for matching a certain style.  However, I consider the Canadian Brewing Awards, and awards in general, to be very important because breweries use these awards extensively in their marketing.  For this reason, I am very interested in how brewing award winners are determined.

I have the utmost respect for the people who conduct the Canadian Brewing Awards.  Their intentions and the processes that they follow both deserve high regard.  They conduct blind tastings for certified beer judges to decide upon winners.  That being said, I wonder about the following:

  • Are these winners the beers that taste the best of the beers that best match a style guideline?
  • Who entered in each category?  If only four beers entered a category, then are the three medal winners really deserving of acclaim?  I’m not saying this is the case, but I really want to know what other beers the winners beat out.
  • What beer is tasted?  Are these off the shelf products or are these specially treated versions coming from the brewer?  Can the consumer expect the same quality as the judge?

I ask these questions because I think they make all the difference to the discerning beer drinker.  Especially when considering how heavily some breweries might choose to put forth these awards when promoting their products, don’t you think the consumer has a right to know?  Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of Canadian Brewing Awards and I am very pleased to see a higher number of BC winners this year.  I think that as these awards mature and more and more breweries enter their beers, that they will be a true indicator of brewing quality.  As for this year, I was a little surprised at some of the winners:

North American Style Lager
Gold: Alpine Lager, Moosehead Breweries (NB)
Silver: Original Draught, Sleeman Brewing (ON)
Bronze: Rocky Mountain Pilsner, Russell Brewing (BC)
Honourable Mention: Carling Lager, Molson Canada

North American Style Premium Lager
Gold: Premium Lager, Lakes of Muskoka Brewery (ON)
Silver: Premium Lager, Great Western Brewing (SK)
Bronze: Old Style Pilsner, Molson Canada

European Style Lager (Pilsner)
Gold: Stonehammer Pilsner, F & M Brewery (ON)
Silver: Pilsner, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Bronze: Steam Whistle, Steam Whistle Brewing (ON)

North American Style Amber Lager
Gold: N/A
Silver: Buzz Beer, Cool Beer (ON)
Bronze: Red Leaf Smooth Red Lager, Great Lakes Brewery (ON)

Bock – Traditional German Style
Gold: Amsterdam Spring Bock, Amsterdam Brewing (ON)
Silver: N/A
Bronze: Hellesbock, Mill Street Brewery (ON)

North American Style Dark Lager
Gold: N/A
Silver: Fort Garry Rouge, Fort Garry Brewing (MB)
Bronze: Dark 266 Lager, Cameron’s Brewing (ON)

Light (Calorie-Reduced)Lager
Gold: Sleeman Light, Sleeman Brewing (ON)
Silver: Premium Light, Great Western Brewing (SK)
Bronze: Alpine Light, Moosehead Breweries (NB)

Wheat Beer – Belgian Style White/Wit
Gold: Honey Thistle Wit, Bushwakker Brewing (SK)
Silver: Belgian Wit, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Bronze: N/A

Wheat Beer – German Style Hefeweizen
Gold: Whistler Weiss Bier, Whistler Brewing (BC)
Silver: Hefeweizen, Tree Brewing Co. (BC)
Bronze: Hefe-Weissbier, Lakes of Muskoka (ON)

Wheat Beer – North American Style
Gold: Grasshopper Wheat Ale, Big Rock (AB)
Silver: Sungod Wheat Ale, R & B Brewing (BC)
Bronze: Dooryard Summer Ale, Northampton Brewing (NB)

Strong or Belgian Style Ale
Gold: La Fin Du Monde, Unibroue (QC)
Silver: Winter Warmer, Garrison Brewing (NS)
Bronze: Dominus Vobiscum Double, Microbrasserie Charlevoix (QC)

North American Style Amber/Red Ale
Gold: Yukon Red Amber, Yukon Brewery (NWT)
Silver: Auburn Ale, Cameron’s Brewing Co. (ON)
Bronze: Devil’s Pale Ale, Great Lakes Brewing (ON)
Honourable Mention: Big Wheel Deluxe Amber, Amsterdam Brewing (ON)

Cream Ale
Gold: Cream Ale, Cameron’s Brewing (ON)
Silver: Cream Ale, Lakes of Muskoka (ON)
Bronze: KLB Cream Ale, Amsterdam Brewing (ON)

North American Style Blonde/Golden Ale
Gold: Gulf Island Brewing, Gulf Island Brewing (BC)
Silver: Honey Blonde Ale, Russell Brewing (BC)
Bronze: Picaroon’s Blonde Ale, Northampton Brewing (NB)
Honourable Mention: Summer Ale, Granite Brewery (ON)

English Style Pale Ale (Bitter)
Gold: ESB, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Silver: Black Oak Pale Ale, Black Oak Brewing (ON)
Bronze: Old Brewery Pale Ale, Nelson Brewing (BC)

North American Style Pale Ale (Bitter)
Gold: Old Yale Pale Ale, Old Yale Brewing (BC)
Silver: Chico Pale Ale, Bushwakker Brewing (BC)
Bronze: Tank House, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Honourable Mention: Timberline Ale, Howe Sound Brewery (BC)

Barley Wine
Gold: 2008 Barley Wine, Mill Street Brewery (ON)
Silver: St. Ambroise Vintage Ale, McAuslan Brewing (QC)
Bronze: Swan’s Legacy Ale, Swan’s Buckerfield (BC)

India Pale Ale
Gold: Hop Head Double IPA, Tree Brewing (BC)
Silver: No. 9 IPA, Mike Duggan – Cool Beer (ON)
Bronze: N/A

Brown Ale
Gold: Nut Brown, Dead Frog Brewery (BC)
Silver: Rail Ale Nut Brown, Howe Sound Brewing (BC)
Bronze: True North Copper Altbier, Magnotta Brewery (ON)

Scotch Ale
Gold: N/A
Silver: Scotch Ale, Phillip’s Brewery (BC)
Bronze: Iron Duke, Wellington Brewery (ON)

Stout
Gold: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, McAuslan Brewing (QC)
Silver: Keepers Stout, Lighthouse Brewing (BC)
Bronze: Traditional Irish Stout, Hockley Valley Brewing (ON)
Honourable Mention: Midnight Sun Espresso Stout, Yukon Brewery (YT)

Strong Porter (Baltic)
Gold: Grand Baltic Porter, Garrison Brewing (NS)
Silver: N/A
Bronze: N/A

Imperial Stout
Gold: Russian Gun Imperial Stout, Grand River Brewing (ON)
Silver: Imperial Stout, Wellington Brewery (ON)
Bronze: N/A

Porter
Gold: Palliser Porter, Bushwakker Brewing (SK)
Silver: Black Toque, Phillip’s Brewery (BC)
Bronze: Coffee Porter, Mill Street Brewery (ON)

Fruit & Vegetable
Gold: Chocolate Porter, Phillip’s Brewing (BC)
Silver: Raspberry Weizen, Pump House Brewing (NB)
Bronze: Jalapeno Ale, Garrison Brewing (NS)

Special Honey/Maple Lager or Ale
Gold: Special Honey Maple Lager, Old Credit Brewing (ON)
Silver: Winter Ale, Great Lakes Brewing (ON)
Bronze: Honey Brown Traditional, Dead Frog Brewery (BC)

Brewery of the Year (most medals won) – Mill Street Brewery
Beer of the Year (”best in show”) – Yukon Red Amber Ale

Cheers,

Chris

Quebec City

I must apologize for neglecting my blogging responsibilities.  I am terribly sorry.  I have no excuse – just laziness really.  After my vacation a week ago I never really got back in the groove of blogging.  I’ll be better though, it won’t happen again.  I promise.

I have a lot of lost time to make up for and do want to quickly cover the last half of my trip to one of Canada’s most impressive beer destinations, Quebec.  So I figure bullets points and pictures are the way to go.

  • Best Pub in Quebec City: L’Oncle Antoine.  This pub is  found in one of Quebec City’s older buildings, dating back to 1754 – new by European standards,  old for Canadian standards.  This pub boasts a number of great craft beers from Quebec and Belgium.  Our last night in Quebec was spent in the L’Oncle Antoine pub enjoying a few pints before heading to a 24 hour poutine joint.

L'Oncle Antoine

  • Best Quebec Beer: Microbrasserie Ile d’Orleans Extra Strong Stout.  This fantastic beer is brewed on Ile d’Orleans, an island in the St. Laurence River about 20 minutes out of Quebec City.  This stout had a rich mouth feel with loads of roasted coffee and chocolate flavours – delicious.

  • Best Poutine: Chez Ashton.  This fast food joint is unique to Quebec and was a welcome change from McDonalds and Wendy’s.  Poutine is right up there with pancakes when it comes to post pub eats

Poutine.  I don't know how they do it, but in Quebec the gravy doesn't cause the fries to go soggy.

I don't know how they do it, but in Quebec the gravy doesn't cause the fries to go soggy.

Cheers,

Erik

Great Canadian Beer Festival 2009

Us guys went to GCBF the other weekend in Victoria for what was an epic beer festival.  We left bright and early on Saturday morning and caught the 9AM ferry to make our way downtown before noon.  We parked where we were staying at Swans Hotel, but couldn’t check in until later that afternoon, and so headed out to start our day.  After a merely adequate breakfast at John’s Place, we walked over to the Royal Athletic Park where the beer festival was to be held.  It was a very hot, very beautiful late summer day for BC, perfect weather for an outdoor beer festival.

Beautiful Swans Hotel

Beautiful Swans Hotel

Now I’d heard that Saturday was the rowdier of the two beer festival days, but was still blown away by the level of rowdiness.  I figured that the stellar craft beer lineup would attract a crowd of beer enthusiasts.  However, I think its safe to say that over 90% of Saturday GCBF patrons were college age folk out for a good time.  I’d also surmise that the majority of attendees had little to no interest in the quality and craftsmanship of the beer on hand, which isn’t to say they didn’t consume it in large quantities.  I was actually quite shocked at just how much of a party atmosphere there really was.  Many groups of people made themselves beerfest costumes or uniforms running the gamut from team jerseys to spandex super hero outfits.  What with the hot weather and masses of inebriated youth, some might even suggest that far too many people were wearing inappropriately little.  In my opinion, the appropriateness of any lack of clothing depended squarely on the attractiveness of the particular person.

This band showed up and started playing

This band showed up and started playing

This guy made balloons, including genitalia

This guy made balloons, including genitalia

Big crowds at GCBF

Big crowds at GCBF

As for the beer itself, there was a good variety of deliciousness available.  My biggest problem with the beer selection was that there were more beers on hand than were advertised in the program.  I failed to stop by at a few of my favorite breweries because it didn’t look like they had prepared anything special.  It was to my great dismay to later find I’d missed out on a few unique brews, most notably a Blackberry Lambic from Driftwood Brewery.  As for the rest, I was very intrigued by many of the Washington and Oregon brewers made the trek.  I was also disappointed with our BC brewers who merely offered their regular brews.  I’d hoped for some more interesting brews from some of my local heroes.

Chris, Erik, Holly at GCBF

Chris, Erik, Holly at GCBF

There were no beer tokens included in the price of admission, which irked me a little.  Tokens cost between $1 and $2 each, depending on how many you bought at a time, and many of the tastes required two tokens.  It is for this reason that I did not try nearly as many beers as I thought I would.  I kept it mainly to unique to the area or cask conditioned brews, ignoring the draft versions of some of my favorites.  Notable standouts to me included:

The Crannog Booth, one of my favorites

The Crannog Booth, one of my favorites

It might have been good that I tried less GCBF beers than I’d planned on because it enabled me to enjoy the rest of the evening.  We returned to Swans to check in and then went down to the pub for a few tasters.  We then spent our evening on the patio at The Canoe Club before wandering over to Spinnakers for a completely unnecessary nightcap.  We had to make our way back in the morning to pickup some of their delightful malt vinegar, which Spinnakers makes themselves.  Also, if you are ever in Victoria and in need of breakfast, head to Mole.  It was outstanding.

Eirk with post GCBF tasters at Swans

Eirk with post GCBF tasters at Swans

It was my first trip to GCBF and I enjoyed it.  If I lived in Victoria, I would go every year.  However, having to come over on the ferry from Vancouver and requiring a hotel have me questioning future trips.  While the beer selection was good, it wasn’t outstanding enough to warrant the expensive journey.  I consider more accessible beer events like Dix Caskivals and the Washington Cask Beer Festival more enjoyable.  What would be even better is a GCBF in Vancouver too.

Cheers,

Chris