Monthly Archives: September 2010

Amsterdam: Two rad beer stores and the Heineken Experience

I made sure to check out the beer scene when I visited Amsterdam a couple weeks ago.  If you haven’t been to Amsterdam before, I highly recommend it. Outside of the touristy center around the train station, it’s a lovely city set amongst picturesque canals and contains more bikes than you’ve ever seen before.  The red light district needs to be seen to be believed and it is quite the sight.  More importantly, Amsterdam has a thriving craft beer scene. I managed to check out two of its epic beer stores, but sadly none of its renowned beer cafes.  The one I tried to visit, Golem, was closed for having broken a law, though they didn’t say which one.

De Bierkoning Amsterdam

De Bierkoning in Amsterdam

De Bierkoning (the beer king) was the first store I visited.  Conveniently they were celebrating their 25th anniversary, which meant free tastings and special beers.  I asked someone working at the store to point me in the direction of some quality Dutch beer and they suggested I try their anniversary specials.  A few local breweries brewed special versions of their regular beer for De Beirkoning’s 25th.  I bought five or so of those special beers and those I’ve tried so far have been delightful.  The anniversary beers were brewed by Brouwerij de Molen, Brouwerij de Eem, and Brouwerij ‘t IJ.  My favorite to date is Hamer and Sikkel by Brouwerij de Molen, a roasty flavorful porter brewed extra strong for the occasion.  Another plus, I received a free de Bierkoning keychain bottle opener for purchasing more than ten euros worth of beer.  It’s now attached to my keychain for all my immediate bottle opening needs.

Perusing in De Bierkoning Amsterdam

Perusing in De Bierkoning Amsterdam

The second beer store I visited was the Cracked Kettle, apparently known by locals as less commercial and of higher quality than de Bierkoning.  While I didn’t feel like I could fit anymore dutch beer in my suitcase, the Cracked Kettle tempted me with brews from their Belgian neighbors.  Somebody from the store had recently paid a visit to the monastery of Westvleteren, brewer of what is widely considered the world’s greatest beer.  They only sell their beer at the monastery, so to find it at a store was almost too good to be true.  I purchased the dubbel and the pale ale, but passed up on the chance to be the quad, aka “best beer on earth“.  Why would I do such a silly thing?  Because I’m going to make the pilgrimage myself and only then shall I drink the sweet nectar of the Gods (that’s probably what the God serving monks call it).

The Cracked Kettle Amsterdam

The Cracked Kettle Amsterdam

Inside The Cracked Kettle Amsterdam

Inside The Cracked Kettle Amsterdam

Westvleteren at The Cracked Kettle Amsterdam

Westvleteren at The Cracked Kettle Amsterdam

I also paid a visit to the Heineken Experience, a tour through an old Heineken Brewery much like the Guinness Storehouse, though not as a good.  The Heineken Experience was much less educational and much less of a museum than it’s Guinness counterpart, but was similarly amusing.  It’s just as much of a tourist trap, chock full of interactive propaganda and marketing.  There is one part where you stand on a movable platform and get brewed.  The platform shakes you around as you are stirred, splashes you with water, and then takes you to a party where extremely good looking people drink you.  At the end of the tour you do get three half pints of Heineken (extra cold!) to drink in their built in nightclub.  I don’t hate Heineken, but I do wish what I drank of it wasn’t often skunky (stupid clear bottles).  While it was cool to see the Heineken marketing machine in action, I can’t say I’d recommend the Heineken experience or do it again.

Us guys at the Heineken Experience

Us guys at the Heineken Experience

Messed up interactive thing at the Heineken Experience

Messed up interactive thing at the Heineken Experience

Finally a taste at the Heineken Experience

Finally a taste at the Heineken Experience

Amsterdam, like Stockholm, and unlike Athen and Berlin, was one of those cities I really loved visiting.  Next time I’ll hit up the epic beer bars.  I may or may not have eaten a space muffin.

Cheers,

Chris

Steak Sandwich

Steak tastes better with wine than beer.  I do not care how passionately Garrett Oliver argues that the rich roasted malt flavour in an English Porter compliments the charred caramelized exterior of a grilled piece of beef.  Cabernet Sauvignon is king when it comes to steak. Beer is certainly not offensive alongside steak, but it is just not number one.  Steak Sandwich on the other hand, is a whole different story.

A steak sandwich is beautiful thing and can be tasty a pub staple. But sadly this sandwich is often times massacred by a passionless line cook who places a thin cheap slice of beef on a soggy piece of garlic bread which is than called a steak sandwich – tragic.   A proper steak sandwich, that combines crispy fried onions, toasted bread, a 21 day dry-aged (minimum) piece of beef and perhaps a thin layer a blue cheese compound butter with hint of grainy mustard, stands firmly in a beer territory.  Wine simply cannot handle these diverse flavour combination, but beer can.

The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the world’s most talented brewmasters; many specializing in hop heavy ales.  The relatively new style of beer known as a Cascadian Dark Ale is the perfect match for a Steak Sandwich. The Cascadian Dark Ale is in essence a brown ale or porter combined with the hop profile of an IPA.  The roasted malt flavours in this new beer compliment a charred steak while the crisp hop flavours balance the power of blue cheese and the sweetness of fried onions.  The Cascadian Dark Ale was brewed for the steak sandwich.

Over the weekend I decided that it was time to work towards creating the ultimate steak sandwich.  Here is the recipe from my first attempt:

Fried Onions:

  • Thinly slice an onion into rings (a shallot may work even better) and coat with a mixture of half flour and half cornstarch.  Let the rings sit until ready for frying.
  • Heat frying oil to 360 F in a pot with high sides and fry the onions until golden brown.

The Compound Butter

  • Mix together half room temperate butter and half blue cheese.

The Steak

  • Season the steak with salt and pepper (be heavy handed with the salt and pepper) and grill to medium rare.  My choice of steak for this is the T-bone as it combines both the strip loin and the tenderloin and when sliced and mixed together the flavours and textures of the two cuts work well together.  If the steak is not dry aged for at least 21 days it is no good.  My butcher in Langley, Heritage Meats, dry ages their beef for 30 days and although it is pricey, it is worth it.  If your butcher can’t tell you how long they hang their beef I suggest you shop somewhere else.
  • Let the steak rest for 3-4 minutes and thinly slice the steak.  Pour any resting juices over the sliced steak.

The Bread

  • Grill slices of quality bread (not Wonder Bread) over high heat until lightly charred.  Rub a clove of garlic over the grilled bread – this will give a nice garlic flavour to the bread.
  • Thinly spread the compound butter on the bottom of the toasted bread.  Spread a very thin layer of grainy mustard on the top (the lid) of the sandwich.

The Sandwich

  • Place the steak slices on the bread with the compound butter.
  • pile the crispy fried onion over the steak
  • pile fresh arugula or any other flavourful salad greens over the onions
  • Close the sandwich and enjoy – some people like an open faced sandwich and omit the lid, which is fine I suppose.

The Beer

  • Enjoy with any dark hoppy beer. My choice was Deschutes Hop in the Dark.  This is a delicious beer brewed by one of my favourite brewers.

Cheers,

Erik

Phillips Brewing – 9 Donkey’s of the Hopocalypse

Phillips Brewing Company turned nine this August and what else would any self respecting West Coast brewery do other than release a hopped up imperial strength ale?  Titled 9 Donkeys of the Hopocalypse this anniversary ale is a powerful “hop bomb” brewed with 9 hop varieties including: Centennial, Chinook, Cascade, Palisade, Amerilo, Citra, Millennium, Hallertaeur and Simcoe.

As expected, this is an in your face mouthful of west coast  hop bitterness.  This beer is not meant to be balanced but the hopiness is somewhat offset by a pleasant malt sweetness, which helps smooth the intense almost resin like hop flavour.  Just don’t drink this one straight out of the fridge – malt flavour tends to hide in the cold, making this beer too hoppy for my liking.   Any hop head will be sure to enjoy this seasonal ale.   The beer has a surprisingly small aroma, which could be a result of aging.  This beer was released almost a month ago and hop aroma fades fast.

Phillips has built a reputation as being one of BC’s more creative breweries and I have always enjoyed their often challenging seasonal releases.  Happy belated anniversary Phillips!

Cheers,

Erik

Good Beer Guide iPhone App

Good Beer Guide iPhone appCAMRA UK publishes a series of books called the Good Beer Guide.  There is one for the UK every year and periodically for other beer countries like Belgium and Germany.  Naturally I came to the UK ready to go with my Good Beer Guide, but I haven’t actually found it that useful.  While it has lead me to a few cool pubs, I need it most when I’m somewhere unfamiliar.  Who wants to carry a giant book around when they don’t know where to find good beer?  Nobody, that’s who.  On top of that, I can barely find my way around the book as it is.  I have no idea where Whatheshire, Whereceister, and Cantfinditborough are and it takes me a lot of flipping to even put myself in the right section.  Also, you have to admin those sound kind of like British towns.

Today I managed to solve all my problems with the Good Beer Guide.  I got an iPhone 4 today and the Good Beer Guide iPhone app was one of my first purchases.  It only costs £5, takes up way less space, and is way more useful and up to date than the book.  Now when I want to find good beer, I just start the app, tell it to find pubs nearby, then follow the directions it gives me.  With the phone’s GPS and compass, I should even be able to find pubs whilst inebriated.  If only every country could have their own Good Beer Guide mobile app.

Cheers,

Chris