Monthly Archives: January 2014

I Stare In To The Dark & Scream With Laughter: Alexander Keith’s Galaxy Hop Ale Review

Alexander Keith’s Galaxy Hop Ale, 5.5% ABV

The Latest in the Alexander Keith’s “Hop Series” of beers where a beer is only made with one specific hop to showcase it (The previous two, Cascade and Hallertauer, I talked about before). Again, I really like the learning aspect of this series, that teaches people who may not know about the elements that go in to their beer. But anyways, on to the review!

COLOUR: I stare in to the abyss and see the dying worlds of yesteryear, my own future, and perhaps even my present. Memories of dwelling in a cave, bones chilled, shivering, screaming for a light that has yet to arrive.

AROMA: The morning light of an undisclosed location that swirls in the sphere of what I once knew to be mine. The wolves arrive, but do nothing. Just stare. Stare at my soul, or perhaps…

TASTE: “Just relax” the professor says as he reaches for the bloodied cufflink that has been in his family for generations. Eyes wide, teeth shaking, the iguana gives a knowing grin. “Just relax”.

VERDICT: The void is upon me now. Emitting a sound that only I can hear. It is warning me, yet pressing me onward. It is pleading with me, yet asking. I scream. I laugh. I cry. I smile. I step forward with arms extended ready to embrace eternity.

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These Pretzels Are Making Me Thirsty – Pretzel & Beer Workshop

Ah, the Pretzel. So soft, so salty, so delicious. Aside from a cheese and cured meat platter, it’s one of my favourite companions with beer.

So it was a thrill to be invited to Kitchen Canada and attend a workshop on how to properly make an authentic, German pretzel, with suggested beer pairings by the folks at Great Lakes Brewery here in Ontario.

Said to be originally created around 610 AD by an Italian monk who used them as rewards for children who learned their prayers, the Germans, like cars, went with the original idea and perfected it. Of course though, there are many varieties of Pretzel out there from all different parts of the world.

Some fun Pretzel facts:

–      Spelled and pronounced “Brezel” in Germany.

–      Pretzels were a very common Easter gift. They would be hidden along with Eggs.

–       The famous shape of pretzels are believed by some to be the shape of hands in prayer.

–       The Pretzel was the symbol for South Germany’s Baker’s Guild. I like to imagine they were a kind of illuminati, but with more cupcakes and pretzels.

–       The “skin” of soft pretzels is made by dipping the unbaked pretzel in a solution of water and lye (yes, the stuff from Fight Club). A substitute of baking soda can be worked with as well.

–       Thanks to its heavy German population, Pennsylvania is the pretzel capital of the US. And here I was thinking the state was just the birthplace of the Crayola Crayon.

–       You can put anything on pretzels. Chocolate, cheese, chili flakes, pudding. The only limit is your imagination.

–       Famous former children’s entertainer Buggy Ding Dong likes his pretzels heavily salted.

The workshop, put on by Kitchen Canada at their lovely event space in Etobicoke, was taught by resident Bakers Marc Richter and Franz Dimplemier with Renee Navarro from Great Lakes Brewery providing beer samples. We learned about the ingredients that go in to making a pretzel dough, the importance of the lye or baking soda dip, and most importantly, how to properly roll and twist a pretzel (which the ever-patient Richter and Dimplemier retaught us several times when we attempted it). But more than that, as a group, we had fun. Figuring out the proper roll, teaching each other on how to knot the pretzels, talking about what other ingredients we wanted to stuff in to our dough for pretzel buns…these were fun things that made the workshop something worth going to. There were also a nice supply of mustards available for dipping and purchase (I may have bought a couple of bottles to add to my ever-growing mustard collection).

The beers were mostly a showcase of Great Lakes’ flagship beers (Red Leaf Smooth Red Lager, Crazy Canuck West Coast Pale Ale, and Devil’s Pale Ale), which was perfect for the crowd, many of whom had never even heard of craft beer. Like all events like that, it was fun hearing people discuss which ones were their favourite and asking questions to Renee, who was only too happy to answer. It should be said that a real crowd-pleaser were the cans of Harry Porter at the end. Although a version that includes Bourbon Soaked Vanilla Beans will be coming out to LCBOs next month, this version was the very tasty regular batch that I think turned a lot of people on to the idea of a dark beer beyond Guinness.

By the end of the evening I left the kitchen with two boxes of my own pretzels and stuffed pretzel buns, two bottles of mustard, and a full stomach. I have to say that it once again reminded me to go to these workshops/classes more often for myself. Although sometimes the recipe could be an easy one, the hands on experience, along with the fun social interaction with your fellow students, makes them a lot of fun to do with a friend or solo. That alone is often worth the price.

If you’re in the Toronto/Etobicoke area, The Kitchen Canada have another one of these Pretzel and beer workshops coming up in March. Apparently tickets go fast.

And because I don’t want to stop at just an event review, I’m going to include a recipe from David Ort’s Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook, which I wrote about last year. No, this isn’t his fantastic no-knead pretzel recipe, but instead it is my favourite condiment to have with pretzels: mustard. IPA Mustard, in fact. It goes without saying that this can be used in things that are decidedly not-pretzel and it is strongly encouraged to mess around with the different beers and variety of mustard seed. Either way, after first reading this recipe I now keep a mason jar filled with my homemade mustard in the fridge at all times. Here it is:

IPA MUSTARD

Recommended beer:
American-style India pale ale
Boneshaker India Pale Ale, Amsterdam Brewery (Ontario)
India Pale Ale, Southern Tier Brewing (United States)

makes 1 cup (250 mL)

preparation time 10 minutes, plus at least 4 hours to soak

scant ½ cup (125 mL) mustard seeds

½ cup (125 mL) India pale ale

4 tsp (20 mL) vinegar (your own beer vinegar is best, but cider or white vinegars are fine substitutes)

1 Tbsp (15 mL) brown sugar

½ tsp (2.5 mL) kosher salt

¼ tsp (1 mL) nutmeg

1. Soak the mustard seeds in the ipa for at least 4 hours or overnight.

2. Reserve a quarter of the soaked mustard seeds. In a mini food processor or blender, combine the other three-quarters of the soaked mustard seeds with the vinegar, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Blend for 1 minute or until most of the seeds have lost their individual texture.

3. Fold the reserved seeds into the mustard.

4. Pack into a scrupulously clean Mason jar, seal tightly and store in the refrigerator.

The mustard is ready to use right away, but will only get better with a few days to rest, and should last for at least 4 to 6 weeks.

 

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2014! New Sights! New Sounds! New Beers!

Argh. Yes. Hello! Hi! Hi. Happy 2014! A brand new year with glorious, nearly infinite possibilities!

My holidays were pretty wonderful. Spent them all at the family cottage in Muskoka with only mobile internet for basic e-mail/social media needs and that was it. I ate a lot of food, consumed a lot of tea, started reading a biography on Nikola Tesla, and watched a lot of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Justified, and The Borgias.

Before we get to the posts coming up, I just wanted to let you folks know what I’ll be up to on here for the next little while.

2013 was an incredible year for my little site and 2014 is aiming to be even better. Starting with more reviews coming up along with some special feature articles. I won’t say much now, but I have another label artist feature coming up along with a few other, hopefully insightful, posts. You folks have been blessing me by visiting here and providing excellent comments and conversation. To show my gratitude, I’m going to keep providing you all with some good reading.

And now, with my day job work sorted out, let’s start 2014

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