Monday, October 31, 2011

Beer Review: Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale

Shipyard Pumpkinhead
An eerie familiarity and sense mystery seems to overtake this particular beer.  It is familiar yet different, sweet but spicy, bold and fruity yet strangely crisp.  In truth, this beer reminded more of a hard apple cider than true ale.  But this minor flaw should not detract from the enjoyable and refreshingly unique perspective provided by the folks at Shipyard.  So go ahead and try a bottle, what’s Halloween without a little obscurity and adventure right?

Origin: Shipyard Brewing Co., Maine, USA

Style: Spice/ Vegetable Beer

Color: Mid to light amber coloration, with a noticeable lack of fine sediment and a crystal clear body that is unusual for “pumpkin beers.” 

Aroma: The bouquet opens with a big, sweet note of fruit.  Though unlike most ales, this aroma shies away from the typical apple/ apricot/ plum smells, and instead embraces a markedly more vegetal characteristic.  The fragrance quickly transitioned to a richer hay/ grassy smell, before finishing with a very strong note of spice supported by a light bourbon-vanilla quality.

Taste: The flavor profile for this beer opens with a mid-strength taste of fruit (not quite entirely unlike pumpkin).  This quickly yields to a pleasant and cleansing spiciness (cinnamon) which fades to reveal a secondary layer of spices (cardamom or cloves perhaps?).  The finishing flavor is the faintest twinge of citrus.

Mouthfeel: Mouthfeel is crisp and pleasantly dry without being overly astringent.  Flavor dissipates quickly and does not linger. 

Recommendation: A different interpretation of the American pumpkin beer, I found it to be enjoyable and pleasant.  I will say that it seemed to favor a pumpkin style lager rather than any pumpkin ale I have encountered previously.  Its low ABV also means that you can drink several at the cliché Halloween party and still be capable of driving home without hitting any trick-or-treaters. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday Afternoon Humor

A bit of beer related humor to start the weekend.  Courtesy of

Beer Review: Tommyknocker Pumpkin

In my previous brew review, I admit that I was categorically dismissive of pumpkin beers.  Please accept my apologies for this brief moment of hypocrisy.  I try to keep an open mind when trying new foods and writing about them, and my earlier comments were not made in the spirit of this ideal. 

However, I do find fault with a large number of pumpkin beers available on the American market.  Unfortunately, pumpkin does not possess an assertive flavor profile, and when it comes to brewing a pumpkin beer many are forced to do one of two things: 1) add lots of pie spices (e.g. cinnamon and cloves) to trick your brain into thinking its ‘drinking’ a pumpkin pie OR 2) use a lot of artificial pumpkin flavoring.  Then end product of these methodologies is almost always decisively unappetizing. 

But the truly disturbing part of this sordid affair isn’t the poor quality beers rolling out of the mega brewhouses (they’ve been doing that for years), but rather the loss of what is arguably the first truly American style beer.  Since the days of the Pilgrims, Americans have proven to be highly adaptable, inventive, and enterprising; and so is the case with our beer!  When the early colonists didn’t have barely to make traditional European beers, they turned to other crops.  Enter the pumpkin.

Americans have been brewing pumpkin beers for as long as there have been Americans.  Much to the dismay of George, Ben, and Tom (all of whom were avid home brewers) it is increasingly difficult to find a decent pumpkin beer.  The Sam Adams Double Pumpkin tastes like bananas, the Blue Moon version is downright gross, and the Terrapin Pumpkin is anything but memorable. 

Then out of the Rockies it suddenly hit me, there is pumpkin that doesn’t over do it (and luckily for me I know where to find it locally)!  Enter Tommyknocker…

Unfortunately, for many aspiring beer snobs Tommyknocker is an “I’m already drunk and don’t’ care what I drink anymore beer.”  While I would never put one of TK’s brews against say the Imperial Chocolate Yeti from Great Divide, I do find that their beers often make for rather enjoyable session drinks.  And so it is with the Pumpkin Harvest Ale. 

At 5.0% ABV this beer is light enough to drink over a long afternoon of college football.  And while the flavor of pumpkin isn’t overwhelming, it is well balanced.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy.

Tommyknocker Pumpkin Harvest Ale (as pictured on my kitchen counter)

Origin: Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO

Style: Brown-Pumpkin Ale

Color: Deep reddish brown, almost a rich mahogany color.  Beer retains a thin, lacy head for the duration.  Clear (not opaque) but too dark to allow light to pass through readily.

Aroma: This beer’s aroma is very mild, with virtually no hopy citrus presence.  The bouquet opens with notes of cinnamon supported by a malty (sweet, with slight twinges of fruit) background.  This slowly opens to a more vegetal aroma (slightest presence of something not quite entirely unlike pumpkin).  The beer’s aroma closes with the slight aroma of hay/ freshly cut grass. 

Taste: Surprisingly the taste of this brew opens with a vanilla yet vegetal taste (slight pumpkin) at the top of the palate.  This quickly transitions to a light biscuit/ malty center with strong notes of rich spices (cinnamon) on the periphery, before finishing with a slight roasted taste. 

Mouthfeel: Unfortunately, this beer falls apart in this particular category.  Overall, the mouthfeel is week (at least for my preference).  The finish on the beer provides a singular, astringent pucker, which I found slightly annoying. 

Recommendation: This beer is all about drinking with friends over long afternoon.  The flavor is varid enough to provide some contrast to the usual bottled horse piss served at tailgating events, and the ABV is low enough to allow you to remember some of the game the next day.

(for the Beer Advocate discussion of this beer please click the following link: )

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Food Wednesday: Oct. 19, 2011

Ok...first let me stress that the subject of today's post is probably one of the most unusual dishes I have encountered on the Internet, which in itself is a feat.  I will also say that the images of today's dish may be disturbing or off putting for some.  To protect the casual user in search of my (easy) Irish Car Bomb Cake from the culinary equivalent of schadenfreude I have buried them after the jump. 

With the general disclaimer out of the way, I will say that I have never sampled this dish.  However, given it's general popularity in certain parts of the world it must be somewhat tasty, and if not it better at least be pretty damn interesting.  I encourage everyone to keep an open mind when thinking about various foods, especially this one.

Find out what it is after the jump!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beer Review: Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale (say that name 3 times fast)

Forget the oddly flavored pumpkin beers; throw out the Oktöberfests; and pitch the Märzens!  Here is a beer that fits nicely next to a slice of decadent pumpkin cheesecake or sitting next to an outdoor fire while leaves carried on a brisk fall breeze, rustle in the background.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the greatest beer on the face of the planet, but I do have to show an immense appreciation for a brewery that demonstrates some restraint while creating and nurturing it’s brew.  All too often, American craft brewers try to launch themselves through the “glass ceiling” only to land with a disastrous thud and covered in broken glass.  Such is the case with many fall seasonals.  You can find a cloyingly sweet and overpowering pumpkin beer with great ease (see the Blue Moon Harvest Moon for an example on how NOT to brew).  And Märzens/ Oktöberfests are almost cliché.  But with the Sierra Nevada Tumbler, you can actually taste Autumn. 

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale

Origin: Sierra Nevada Brewery, Chico, Cali.

Style: Brown Ale

Color: Deep reddish brown…Color is indicative of fall foliage (no really, it starts on the edges with a deep red hue with occasional flashes of orange, and finishes with a deep reddish brown).

Aroma: This beer’s aroma is mild and restrained, yet noticeable and pleasing.  Roasted malts (a combination of toffee and bread with a faint twinge of coffee) predominate the front of the aroma.  This fades to a subtle underpinning of a vegetal nature (think of a warm barn on a cold winter’s day with freshly strewn hay on the floor) with notes of leather.  This transitions to notes of a slightly spicy nature (cinnamon) before finishing with the faintest smell of ripe fruits/ vanilla.

Taste: The initial taste of this brew comes across as a slightly maple syrup-esque sweetness with a few chords of nuttiness and the faint overtone of toffee.  This quickly gives way to a rich and roasted flavor with the slight taste of coffee.  The beer finishes with the faint taste of mocha (combination of coffee and vanilla really)

Mouthfeel: Crisp and surprisingly dry for such a dark ale, not entirely unlike champagne.  Overall mouthfeel though is of an almost velvety creamy texture.  Beer maintains a faint lacy head after the initial pour. 

Recommendation: This beer is all about balance and nuance.  It is definitely a transition beer between the Summer Hefes and the Winter Warmers (can’t wait!), and it performs this function with great virtue.  It is, in short, the perfect beer for fall. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Recipes: Stout Beer Pot Roast with Carrots and Gravy

Author's Note:

So last week was certainly interesting.  Gall stones and jaundice followed by a 24 hour cooking and baking marathon (yes, i literally spent 24 hours cooking this past weekend) .  Please forgive me, but today's post a simple  re-hashing of a very classic recipe for pot roast.  But this isn't Julia or Ina's roast, this is the recipe I used for the first dish I prepared at The Nook Tavern, in Huntsville, Ala. 

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy.

Stout Beer Pot Roast with Carrots and Gravy
BY: Samuel Parks (March 2011)

Stout Pot Roast, as featured at the Nook Tavern on Dec. 17, 2011
A Sunday evening meal that goes down almost as smoothly as the beer recommendation!  Cooked with a dry stout beer, such as Guinness Extra Stout, this pot roast features a complexity of flavors unrivaled by its cousin cooked with snooty French wine.  The malty characteristics of the stout offer a supple backdrop for a symphony of beef and mixed vegetables slowly braised in a delicious grave. 

Beer Pairing Recommendation:
Complimentary-Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock
Contrasting-Mojo Double Rising India Pale Ale (IPA)


1 boneless beef chuck roast (4 to 5 pounds should be sufficient for approximately 8 people)*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour
Yellow corn meal
Smoked Paprika (to taste)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)**
2 cups chopped parsnips (approximately 4 parsnips)
15-20 Pearl onions (cut in half)
2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (approximately 2 leeks)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 cups dry stout beer (such as Guinness Extra Stout)
2 tablespoons bourbon (such as Maker’s Mark or Jim Beam)
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
3 branches fresh thyme
2 branches fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh sage
(Coincidentally, all of these herbs may be found in the ‘Poultry Blend’ in the fresh herb section at most Kroger supermarkets)
4 tablespoons of cornstarch
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature


1.      Pat the beef dry with a paper towel.
2.      Season the roast with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper (make sure to generously massage the spices into the meat).
3.      Dredge the whole roast in flour, corn meal, and paprika (I find that mixture of approximately 1 to 3 parts corn meal to flour works the best).  
4.      In a large deep pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the roast and sear for 4 to 5 minutes, until well browned. Turn and sear the other side and then turn and sear the ends. Remove the roast from the pan.
5.      Add 2 tablespoons olive oil (or bacon fat if you have it on hand) to the pan.
6.      Add the carrots, onions, parsnips, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium heat (COVERED) for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender but not browned.
7.      Add the beer and bourbon and bring to a boil.
8.      Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.
9.      Tie the fresh herbs together and add to the pot.
10.  Transfer the mixture to the crock pot.
11.  Put the roast into the crock pot
12.  Cook until fork tender (approximately 8-10 hours)
13.  Remove the roast to a cutting board. Remove the herb bundle and discard.
14.  Skim off as much fat as possible from the sauce.
15.  Transfer half the sauce and vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth.
16.  Place butter and cornstarch in a small bowl and mash until a paste has formed.
17.  Add the butter mixture to the pureed sauce and mix until well combined.
18.  Pour the puree back into the pot and return the sauce to a simmer.
19.  Cook until thickened.
20.  Taste for seasoning, and slice the meat.

*Make sure to tightly truss your roast into as uniform and compact a shape as possible. Most de-boned chuck roasts will be trimmed so that their overall shape is uneven and “floppy.” Trussing helps to ensure an even and uniform cooking time.

**For the original preparation of this recipe, diced carrots were used. Two, 2 lb bags of mini/ baby carrots would probably work better with the gravy than the diced version.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Beer Review: Traquair House Ale

Like most beers this one has a story…  Except in this case the story didn’t start 3 weeks ago in a modern brewer’s immaculate, stainless steel brewing vat.  This beer’s story actually begins in 1107 in southern Scotland on the banks of the river Tweed.  Throughout the English Civil War, the house served as a bastion of support protecting Scotland’s southernmost borders.  Over the years, the house would change owners many times and like many such structures it would eventually fall into disrepair.  It was not until the 20th century that the home began to experience a revival.  Under the careful stewardship of Peter Stuart (if you remember you British history you should recognize the name Stuart) the home become a living museum complete with a working 17th century brewery.  It is in this “livable time capsule” that this beer is carefully crafted. 

Traquair House Ale

Style: Scottish Ale (ABV 7.2%)

Color: Deep mahogany, almost ebony in color, with the slightest tan head.  Beer is too dark to allow light to pass through the glass.

Aroma: This beer’s aroma is subtle and fleeting…it constantly seems to be on the move.  First one may perceive the aroma of damp hay, then perhaps leather, followed by plums/ raisins, and finishing with a slightly sour vegetal note.  It is complex to say the least. 

Taste: The initial sip of this beer is replete with toffee and caramel notes of different intensities, origins, and backgrounds.  This fades to a rich raisin taste.  Raisins quickly transform into plums.  And the final taste is a tantalizing mix of caramel and roasted malt with the slightest hint of oaky vanilla.

Mouthfeel: “Big and jammy” is the only way to describe this beer on the palate.  I will admit that it seems to possess a slightly acerbic quality (not unlike biting into a persimmon) that cleanses the palate, despite its large mouthfeel.  Surprisingly, there is the slightest taste of damp earth left after the beer is consumed. 

Recommendation: This is a great beer for cold winter nights or lazy summer afternoons.  It’s taste probably isn’t for everyone, especially if your used to drinking “Carbonized Horse Piss,”  But give it a whirl…who knows you might actually enjoy it!

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Recipes: (easy) Irish Car Bomb Cake

(easy) Irish Car Bomb Cake
BY: Samuel Parks (October 2011)

Irish Car Bomb Cake

Ok, I know it sounds crazy, but this cake actually tastes like an Irish Car Bomb (the drink not the actual thing...those are generally more painful than they are tasty).  Who would have thought that pouring beer into a cake could be so good!  I first made this cake entirely from scratch for an office party last St. Patty’s Day.  Since then I have developed this easier method.  Enjoy!


2-8 in. round cake pans
Butter for greasing
Cocoa Powder for dusting

1 box Duncan Hines Double Chocolate Cake Mix
(1/4 cup vegetable oil)
(1/2 cup stout beer or chocolate stout, equal to the exact amount of water the box recipe calls for)
(4 eggs total, the box should call for 2 or 3)

2 cups Powdered Sugar
8 oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
¼ - ½ cup Irish Cream
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract


1.      Prepared the cake according the package directions, substituting the beer for the water from the recipe and adding an extra egg.  At this stage you may also add a sprinkle of kosher salt, which helps to unify the flavors and tame the cloying sweetness of the frosting, your choice.
2.      Bake the cake in two 8 in. round metal cake pans, greased with butter, and sprinkled with cocoa powder to prevent sticking.
3.      Bake according to the package directions.
4.      Remove from pans as quickly as possible and cool completely before adding frosting.

1.      Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the cream cheese until fluffy.  Slowly add the powdered sugar.  After the powdered sugar has been incorporated, add the vanilla and Irish cream.  Mix until thoroughly combined. 
2.      Frost the cake.  Use a layer of frosting between the layers to hold the two together.

(serves 8-10)

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Recipes: Civil War Cookies

Author’s Note: This recipe was first written as an “office joke” for one of our holiday cookie swaps.  For the blog, I have posted this in its original version and without any revisions or modifications.  Let me just apologize in advance; I was young… I had too much free time… And apparently a less evolved sense of humor.  Try to pick through the “Alton-Brownesque” references.  I promise you (and your fellow office workers) will love these cookies.
Civil War Cookies
Civil War Cookies
BY: Samuel Parks (December 2009)
This variation on the perennial classic of the American baking canon, combines the tart flavors of  New England cranberries, the smoky, full bodied bouquet of the South’s favorite whiskey, and the inherent  richness of white chocolate chips.  

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
1 teaspoon NaCl (salt)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure extract from the vanilla planifolia pod (vanilla)
2 tablespoons ice-cold, Jack Daniels ethanol beverage (whiskey)
2 hard-shelled, ovum cells from a Gallus domesticus (eggs)
1 ½ cups white chocolate chips
1 cup dried and sweetened fruit from the Vaccinium Oxycoccos plant (cranberries)
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons turbinado or demura sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

1.      Preheat the convective baking unit to 462.65 kelvin (350˚ Fahrenheit or 190.5˚ Centigrade)
2.      Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.
3.      Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and Jack Daniels in large mixer bowl until creamy.
4.      Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5.      Divide dry ingredients into thirds, and mix thirds into the batter one at a time. Make sure not to over mix the batter, as this will produce excess glutens making your cookies tough. 
6.      Stir in white chocolate chips and cranberries.
7.      Chill overnight in the refrigerator (this helps to mellow the flavors of the mixture and produce a rounder, more full-bodied taste. 
8.      Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
9.      Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Yields:  Approximately 3-4 dozen cookies