Monthly Archives: March 2013

CURRENTLY DRINKING: Eephus by Left Field Brewery

Left Field is a new brewery out of Toronto (though currently contracting out of Grand River Brewing in Cambridge). As you can probably guess from their name, they are Baseball themed, which goes well with baseball season arriving soon. Started by Niagara College brewing program graduate Mark Murphy and his wife Mandie, their first offering is Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale. What is an Eephus? Well, it’s described as a “seldom-thrown and unexpected pitch”, usually at slow velocity (55mph, as opposed to a regular pitch, which is about 80-100mph), which throws the batter off guard.

The arrival of the brewery comes at a good time, as not only is baseball season starting up here, but there’s also a renewal of interest in the game, since the Toronto Blue Jays went through some changes.

For Toronto folk, they have a launch coming up April 5th at 3030 (3030 Dundas St. West) at 7:07pm.

On to the review.

Eephus Oatmeal Brown Ale by Left Field Brewery (Toronto, ON) – 5.5%ABV

photoCOLOUR: Dark brown. No head whatsoever.

AROMA: Warm, earthy malt notes.

TASTE: Nice caramel notes with a a slight bitterness all rounded out well with the creaminess of the oatmeal. Carbonation is pretty minimal and I feel like I’m missing out on things a bit there, as it’s tasting a bit flat.

VERDICT: I’d drink this while spending a day in watching a game (bonus if it’s a particularly chilly and rainy day). All in all, it’s a pretty comfortable Brown Ale that is quite enjoyable!

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The Thirsty Wench’s St. Patrick’s Day Survival Guide

It’s that time of year again where people see a lot of green stuff and guides for a good St. Patrick’s Day are being released by bars, breweries and newsfolk alike.

So I thought I’d throw my hat in to the ring and give you my own St. Patrick’s Day Survival Guide.

  1. Stock up on supplies. – It’s only for a weekend, but still. Buy enough food and good beers to last you for that time because you won’t be leaving. Give a last final embrace to any friends and family you cherish, just in case.
  2. Board up your windows and lock your doors. – If you don’t, you may find that a keg of crap beer you didn’t buy will be in your house surrounded by shattered glass and you’ll be overrun with university and college students screaming and breaking things and singing Danny Boy even though they aren’t sad because IRELAND.
  3. Arm yourself. – A baseball bat is best. I have a battle axe. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
  4. Pray or alternatively recite the Litany Against Fear – It’ll all be over soon. Don’t worry. You must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
  5. DON’T GET BITTEN.
  6. DON’T OPEN THE DOOR. – Ignore the other people who aren’t being Irish for a day trying to get in to your place for safety. You open the door, you put yourself and others in your home at risk. They should have prepared. Like you.
  7. Drink a beer because you want to, not because you have to. Really, folks. Nowhere does it say that you have to drink until you vomit on St. Patrick’s Day. If you feel like having a drink, do so. If not, then don’t.

That’s all from me. Stay safe out there, folks.

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Small Lessons Making a Big Difference

So I’m going to tell you folks a little story.

You sitting down? What about you in the back? Okay? Good. Here it goes.

So back in 2011 when I was still trying to get this blog going and was still at the very start of the grand journey of learning about beer, I went to my first Ontario Craft Beer Week event, which was a “meet the brewer for a tutoured tasting” thing with Mill St. Brewery at The Rebel House. Brewmaster Joel Manning and brewer Bridgid Young showed up with samples of their Original Organic Lager and Tankhouse Ale. And since the place wasn’t too busy, they sat down with me and taught me about the ingredients that go in to their beers. Even bringing bags of two types of grain and a bag of hops to show. Joel encouraged me to taste the grain that went in to their Tankhouse Ale and then try the beer. Suddenly I realized the source of the biscuit-like flavours I was tasting. Even with the hops, I learned how to take a handful of the flowers, grind it with my hands and smell the wonderful hints of citrus and sweetness that the hop is known for.

It was my first exposure to the individual ingredients that went in to beer and was nothing short of a revelation on the senses for me and changed the way I looked (and, well, tasted) beer. Now and then when I do a tasting of a beer my mind sometimes goes back to the lessons I learned that day.

So why am I telling this story? Am I too tired? Am I off my meds and just feel like rambling?

Well, yes.

hops1But also to segue in to talking about earlier this week when I went to the launch of Alexander Keith’s Hop Series of beers, which opened with two single-hop beers (that’s a beer that is made with one variety of hop); a Cascade Ale and Hallertauer Ale.

Now, I’ve only tried the Cascade Ale so far and while it’s a pretty decent and comfortable offering (but not to my personal taste) I really need to bring attention to the packaging. The cans themselves talk a bit about the history of the individual hop they’ve used, which I think is a fantastic idea. Also press were given this little pack (seen on the right) that came with two small jars of flower hops. The only labels on the jars were “Hop A” and “Hop B”.

Confusion was cleared by the accompanying card:

hops2

And I thought that was such a brilliant way to get people learning about what goes in to beer and encourage a whole appreciation for it. Sometimes when a 2-300 page book or big event seems too intimidating for a beginner in learning or when you just plain don’t know, it takes one person to show up with a jar of flower hops or a bag of malt and say “this is what went in to what you’re drinking”. Like in food, breaking something down to its raw ingredients increases an understanding in it.

So say what you will about the taste of Keith’s, or dismiss them because they’re a big brewery, but I say they did something right here and that this is a pretty cool way to educate people about what’s going in to their drink. And that’s something.

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The Cake is Not a Lie (Chocolate Stout Cake Recipe)

cake

LOOK AT THIS CAKE. Dear lord.

Okay. First, an origin story.

So my friend Danielle M. Friedman, who is Sous Chef at the West & Mill Bistro Bar in Atlanta, Georgia, was pondering dessert ideas one day and I humbly suggested one of my favourites, the Chocolate Stout Cake, but with a frosting that incorporated whiskey in to it as well. Danielle, of course, was inspired and after a time of perfecting came up with two recipes for Chocolate Stout Cake. One with a caramelized white chocolate and whiskey frosting and another one with port and black cherry frosting (pictured above). Both proved to be a smashing success, selling out within two days.

What makes this cake so unique for me is the amount of stout that goes in to it. Most stout cake recipes only use about 1-2 cups, which leaves the stout flavour taking a back seat to the chocolate, but this cake feature 2 bottles of stout and according to Danielle, the flavour of the beer is clearly the star of the show.

Danielle has kindly passed on the recipe for this gorgeous cake along with the port and black cherry icing and I’m posting them below. Try it out and enjoy! I know I intend to try out the recipe and see how it goes at a potluck.

In the meantime, I’m putting West & Mill on my list of places to visit.

For more info on the West & Mill:

West & Mill Bistro Bar
1000 Marietta St. NW Suite 202
Atlanta, GA 30318

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CHOCOLATE STOUT CAKE

2 bottles stout (We use Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout)
1 shot strong espresso
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably *Dutch-process)

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides and line with parchment paper. Butter paper.

2. In heavy large saucepan over medium heat, bring stout, coffee and butter to a simmer. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in large bowl to blend. In a large bowl, beat eggs, vanilla and sour cream until well mixed.

4. Add stout-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat until just combined, taking care the stout mixture is cool enough that it will not cook the eggs. Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

CAKE2CHERRY PORT ICING

16oz Frozen Black Cherries
2 Cups Port Wine
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Pound Unsalted Butter, Softened 
5 Cups Confectioners Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1. Place cherries, port,and granulated sugar in a heavy sauce pot. Simmer them on medium heat until it reaches the consistency of thick preserves.
2. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
3. Puree the cherry port mixture in a blender until smooth.
4. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until smooth.
5. Slowly beat in the confectioners sugar and kosher salt until well blended.
6. Slowly add the cooled cherry mix to the buttercream and mix until it reaches the consistency you desire.
You may need to chill the icing before using it.

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