Monday, 4 November 2013

Growlers: Beer in Bulk

A growler of beer from
Jasper Brewing Co.
The word “growler” can be used to describe a myriad of things.

1. A person who growls
2. A small iceberg, large enough to be a navigational hazard
3. A sound powered telephone used on U.S. Navy ships
4. A four wheeled horse-drawn carriage, popular in the 19th Century
5. A pitcher, pail, or other container brought by a customer to be filled with  beer

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, you couldn’t buy a six pack from the liquor store on your way home from work.  People would either go to the pub, or carry the beer home in a small galvanized pail known as a “growler”.  The name of the vessel used to carry the beer is rumored to have come from the sound that the carbonation made as it escaped through the lid of the pail.  It wasn’t until 1989 that the modern growler, a large glass bottle, was contrive by Charlie and Ernie Otto of Otto Brother's Brewing Company in 1989.  Today, growlers are commonly available from select specialty liquor stores.  However, do a growler justice, the beer should come straight from the brewery.

Although there are other sizes of growlers that exist, most can hold approximately 2L of beer.  For me, 1.9 L is way too much to drink in one night – that’s the equivalent of more than 5 cans, or 4 pints of beer.  Growlers are made for sharing.  And although the beer in a growler should keep 7-10 days if refrigerated, I recommend to drink yours within 72 hours.  I drink mine in 48, just to make sure it doesn’t go flat.

Creative collectible growlers.
The bottle itself costs only $5 or so, although there are now collectible growlers that are worth more.  Most breweries charge about $10 to fill a growler, but others may charge more or less depending on the type of beer.  It’s a little cheaper than a six pack, though the bottle can hold the equivalent of about 5 beers.  However, you conserve a lot of energy by not having to recycle it once it becomes empty.  Just think of all the bottles you won’t have to take to the depot after your party.

A friend of mine came back from Jasper with the best kind of souvenir for me - a growler of Blueberry Vanilla Ale from Jasper Brewing company.  I drank most of it within 24 hours, but the remainder went flat.  This is what I made with the leftovers.

Brew-berry Vanilla Syrup

Beer for breakfast!

2 cups fresh or frozen wild blueberries
½ cup blueberry ale
½ cup maple syrup
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp corn starch
½ tsp. vanilla extract

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the blueberries with the ale, maple syrup, and lemon juice.
  2. Bring blueberry mixture to a gentle boil, stirring frequently.
  3. In a small bowl, rapidly stir the cornstarch into 2 tbsp of cold water to form a slurry.
  4. Slowly add the corn starch slurry to the blueberries, stirring to combine.
  5. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer to glass storage container.  Serve cool or warmed over pancakes or waffles.

Vanilla Ale Pancakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
 1 teaspoon salt
 1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup milk
¼ cup beer
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp butter, melted
½ tsp vanilla extract

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and sugar).
  2. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine milk, beer, beaten egg, melted butter, and vanilla extract.  Pour the egg mixture into the well and mix with a whisk until smooth.
  4. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat.
  5. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.
  6. When there are no longer bubbling, it’s time to flip.  Brown the other side and serve hot.

Wikipedia Definitions
The Growler: Beer-to-Go.  Beeradvocate.  July 31st, 2002.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Ale-pple of My Eye

What beverage is more essential to music than beer?  Recently, the Flying Monkeys brewery took this thought to heart when they collaborated with singer-songwriter Dallas Green of City and Colour to create the Imperial Maple Wheat Ale.

This is the second release from the Treble Clef Series, so be sure to expect some more colla-brew-ations with more Canadian musical talent.  The bottle is decorated in the typical Flying Monkey style: loud patterns.  A lime green label is decorated with images of Dallas Green’s face, a yellow marquee, and cryptic lyrics scattered across the bottle.

The beer itself is a nut brown ale, with an aroma of caramel and biscuit - almost like a Belgian waffle.  The beer pours with minimal carbonation, and a thin golden head.  The maple flavor dominates, adding a sweet, yet balanced finish to the rich malt.  And although the flavor is smooth, the brew is 11.5% alcohol by volume and is meant to be shared with several of your friends.

However, this beer needs to know its place.  Not to say that it’s a bad beer by any means.  It just doesn’t belong with your pizza or wings.  This beer is sweet in a dessert-for-breakfast kind of way.  It deserves to be sipped alongside a crème brulee.  Or poured over your pancakes.  Or turned into a delightful maple ale caramel.

Also see my article in the Gateway Newspaper about this beer.

'Tis the season for caramel apples as well.  As fantastic as caramel apples are without embellishment, they can't get any worse if I were to add my favorite flavor-boosting, of course.

Note: Be careful, young padawans.  Hot caramel is dangerous!  Don't dip your finger in, just because it looks delicious.  It will BURN you, as it did me (second degree!).

Maple Ale Caramel Apples

1 cup maple ale
2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup maple flavored breakfast syrup (corn syrup-based)
10 Apples

1 roll of wax paper

  1. In a small saucepan bring 1 cup of the maple ale to a simmer and cook until reduced and syrupy (about 20 minutes).  You should have about 1 tbsp of thick, syrupy, beer reduction at the end.  Set aside.
  2. Combine all other ingredients except ale reduction in a large heavy pot.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the butter melts and the mixture boils.
  3. Continue to cook until candy thermometer reaches 244 degrees, this will take about 30 minutes.  To test your caramel, drop a small amount into a bowl of ice water - if it forms a ball, the consistency is right.
  4. When the correct temperature has been reached, stir in the ale reduction and remove from heat.
  5. Dip apples into caramel and spin to coat.  Place on wax paper.
  6. Let cool for several hours or place in fridge until firm.
  7. Makes about 10 caramel apples.

Feel free to decorate your ale-pples – crushed peanuts and Reese’s Pieces are my top choices.  One reminds me of carnivals, while the other of Halloween parties.

Flying Monkeys Brewery
Recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes.  June 16, 2010.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Butte of All Jokes

Recently my partner-in-crime went on an excursion to visit some family in the states.  He made his way to Butte, Montana, and came back with my favorite kind of souvenir.  The drinkable kind.

Butte is an old copper mining town, and at one time had a population over 100,000.  Now there are just over 33,700.  Headframe Spirits are a local distillery that produces Neversweat, a bourbon whiskey named after an one of the mines.  While the mine originally had a reputation for having unusually low temperatures, the name grew ironic as the mines were dug deeper and the temperatures below rose higher.  While Neversweat is rich and spicy on the rocks, it makes a damn good old fashioned too.

Pick your poison..
You only get two drinks at the Tasting room.

The Headframe distillery also runs something called a “Tasting Room”.  Not to be mistaken for a “bar”, “pub”, or “club”, the tasting room is a place to imbibe one or two cocktails – no more.  This limit placed on alcohol consumption allows them to operate without a liquor license. It’s a brilliant concept, really.  Besides, by the third drink are you really “tasting” what’s in your glass?  Not likely.

Named after that wispy powder
that skiiers dream about.
My accomplice also visited a brewery in Missoula, MT.  The KettleHouse Brewing Company was the first brewery in Montana to pour beer in their tasting room, and was one of three breweries that lobbied the Montana State Legislature for the legalized on-premise consumption of beer in breweries.  They have since become a flourishing microbrewery and a popular neighborhood taproom.  The Cold Smoke Scotch Ale is the most popular brew, and is 2012 bronze medalist of the World Beer Cup.  My personal favorite is the Double Haul IPA.  Brewed with Montana-grown barley and Northwest grown Cascade hops, this is a full-bodied brew with 65 IBU – a real treat for hop heads.

With the advent of fall comes many of my favorite things:

- Cozy sweaters
- Boots
- Pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING
- Halloween (aka. an excuse for me to make themed desserts)
- and of course, soup.

Nothing feels better than coming home to a bowl of warm soup.  Here’s one for pumpkin-aholics like myself.

The seeds add bit of crunch for contrast.

Pumpkin Sage Soup

1 medium sugar pumpkin
2 cups chicken broth
2-3 sprigs sage
½ cup beer
¾ cup cream
2 tbsp brown sugar
Salt to taste

  1. Cut the pumpkin open from stem to bottom.  Use a spoon to remove the seeds and stringy bits.
  2. Place both sides face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  3. Cook pumpkin at 300°F for about 1 hour.  Remove from oven and let cool.
  4. Once pumpkin is cool enough to handle, turn each half over and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl.
  5. Using a food processor or immersion blender, puree the pumpkin until a smooth consistency is reached.
  6. Transfer pureed pumpkin to a large pot, adding the chicken broth, sage, and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil.
  7. Stir in beer and cream, reducing heat.  Continue to cook for another 30 minutes, or until flavors are blended.
  8. Serve topped with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Makes about 8 cups of soup.

Kettle House Brewing Co.

Dorn, Ryan.  Distilling Butte.  July 9, 2012.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Radical Radler

You may have come across an orange-tinged beer in the liquor store, with a meagre 2.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).  This, my friends, is a Radler.

A what?

"Radler" literally translated means "cyclist" in German, which may have something to do with the low alcohol content. It has become known as a cocktail consisting of a 1:1 or 3:2 mixture of beer and soda pop.  There are several pre-mixed Radlers that have recently become popular in North America as well.  These include the Schöfferhofer and the Stiegl Radler.

F.X. Kugler
The invention of the drink is widely attributed to the Bavarian gastronomer Franz Xaver Kugler. Legend has it that Kugler, a railroad-turned-innkeeper, arranged for the construction of a bike trail through the forest from Munich to his pub, the Kugleralm.  The barkeep soon found himself a victim of his own success on a
Saturday in June 1922, when 13,000 cyclists descended upon his inn demanding beer.  To quench the thirst of the demanding customers, Kugler was forced to dilute the beer with lemon soda, a previously unpopular ingredient in such a beer-loving province.  He called the drink a "Radlermass" - radler meaning cyclist, and mass meaning a litre of beer.

While the legend is somewhat plausible, there are references to the Radler cocktail that are dated several years before 1922.

There are as many regional differences between Radlers as there are German dialects.  In some cases, the Radler is distinguished as using a lemon-lime flavored soft drink, while an Alsterwasser is mixed with an orange flavored soda.

In some areas of Münsterland, they mix beer with an orange soft drink to make a concoction they call Wurstwasser, or "sausage water" to describe the color of the drink.  Yummy.

Let's talk about the noble grapefruit for a moment.  There are several chemicals in grapefruit responsible for the bitter taste.  The essential oil of grapefruit is dominated by two compounds - limonene and myrcene.

IUPAC name, 7-Methyl-3-methylene-1,6-octadiene

There are many grapefruit flavors present in certain hops.  Cascade hops in particular are notorious for providing the grapefruit flavor and aroma to beer.  The essential oil extracted from Cascade hops is predominately myrcene (48.9%), while other abundant components include α-humulene, (E)-caryophyllene, (E)-β-farnesene. So although the two species are very different, they contain similar compounds that cause grapefruit and Cascade hops to resemble each other in flavor.


Enter Alley Kat's Summer Squeeze Grapefruit Ale.  This is an actual ale brewed with real grapefruit, and is a tad less sweet than a Radler.  While the citrus bite is similar to that of the German beer cocktail, this is an actual beer with 5% ABV. This seasonal beer is brewed with real grapefruit, the natural flavor enhances the Cascade hops without masking the refreshing bitter finish.  Get some before it goes back into Alley Kat's seasonal beer vault when the summer comes to an end.

So I've made beer-sicles before, yes (see Fruits of YourLabour, June 2012).  This is entirely different, I swear.  Well, sort of.

En garde!


Equipment:       One 6-well popsicle mould

Ingredients:       2 bottles Radler (Stiegl or other)

  1. Pour beer into of the popsicle mould until each well is filled halfway.  Make sure to pour down the side of the mould to minimize the level of foam.
  2. Continue to pour, filling moulds within ¼” of the top.
  3. Insert popsicle sticks and transfer to freezer.
  4. Share with friends who are over the legal age of majority.

Ort, David. First Draught: Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, a beer cocktail that’s actually good.

German Beer Institute

Hops. The Hopry.

Nance M.R. and Setzer W.N. Volatile components of aroma hops (Humulus lupulus L.) commonly used in beer brewing. Journal of Brewing and Distilling Vol. 2(2) pp. 16-22, April 2011.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

With a Grain of Salt

Sodium chloride, or common table salt, is critical in the culinary arts for enhancing flavor.  At low concentrations levels though, salt will reduce bitterness and increase the sweet, sour and umami.  However, at higher concentrations salt will suppress sweetness and enhance umami (or the "savory" flavor).  Thus moderation is key to maintaining the perfect balance.

Numerous foods can benefit from a pinch of salt.  The umami flavors in tomatoes are noticeably enhanced with a cautious tilt of the salt shaker (or a strip of bacon).  A sparing pinch can even take the edge off of a cup of bad coffee.  The quintessentially Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton's is known to add a pinch of salt to their coffee as well.  So why not beer?
Choose your weapon

Enter beer salts.  The Twang brand of Beersalts are specifically marketed for people looking to enhance their cheap, unflavorful beers.  They not only include, but also include citric acid and natural flavors of lemon, lime, and cayenne.  These not only add refreshment, but mask any off-flavor in the beer caused by too much sun exposure.

There are three flavors designed to enhance your beer enjoyment:
  1. Lemon-lime beer salt, designed for Mexican and American lagers and pilsners.
  2. Lime beer salt, designed to emulate the tradition of adding lime to Corona.
  3. Caliente 86 Hot Lime beer salt, developed in celebration of Twang's 25th anniversary.

Now, take this information with a grain of salt.  While I highly recommend trying these salts with Lucky or your buck-a-can beer of choice.  If you're drinking a high quality craft beer, don't bother.  You may ruin your fifteen dollar 750ml ale by adding too much.

All three flavors of Twang Beersalt can be found in various places across the border to the south.  However, there's no need to go all the way to the United States to pick these up.  You can easily imitate the flavor with simple ingredients from your kitchen. Try tossing a pinch of salt into your beer, along with a slice of lime.  Add a sparing shake of cayenne for extra kick.  Or drink your beer with some salty snacks instead.  There's a reason beer, not wine, is drunk with nachos and pretzels.  Beer and salt have always been, and always will be, best friends.

McGrath, Caitlin. Salted Coffee You Say? CHOW Blog.
Villazon, Luis. FOCUS Science & Technology.
Twang Beersalt

Friday, 28 June 2013

The Best of the Wurst

I have a confession to make.  I recently comitted a terrible crime against beer.  I left a bottle in my car for 8 hours while it was 24 degrees Celsius.  Why is this bad?  Beer exposed to light and heat goes through a process called "oxidation", which converts a pleasantly bitter and malty beer to a stale and "skunky" brew.

Braising.  The term means searing a cut of meat first at high temperatures, then cooking slowly in a variable amount of liquid.  This liquid can be anything from savory broths to fruit juices, and especially wine and beer.

There are limits however, to using substandard beer to cook with.  Never cook with a beer you wouldn't drink.  I tasted the beer before I braised with it - had I cooled it down it would have still been drinkable.  Had it been any more than a day in such warm conditions it would have been unusable.

The beer used was Wunderful Lager from Nördlingen, Germany.  Although the name is somewhat Westernized, the beer itself followed the Reinheitsgebot, the German purity law allowing only water, malt, and hops into the brew .  My partner-in-crime picked up a bottle of the a fruity Hefeweizen and a Pilsner from the same brand to drink with dinner, unaware that I had braised with beer from the same brand.

Paired with the brats is a chipotle beer mustard, graciously brought back from San Diego by a close friend.  If you are in the San Diego area, I recommend checking out at least one brewery or brewpub.  In particular, the Stone Brewing Company operates out of North County, and has a brewpub in both Escondido and Liberty Station.  While you're there, pick up a jar of mustard for yourself.  And one for me, in exchange for a meal and everlasting gratitude.

Beer-Braised Bratwurst

Beer-braised redemption

with Beer Mustard and Saurkraut

1 tbsp olive oil
8 Bratwurst sausages
355ml beer
8 sausage buns
1 14 oz. jar Sauerkraut
2 tbsp brown sugar
Beer Mustard

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, or turn a slow cooker on to high.
  2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan or skillet.  Puncture sausages with a fork.
  3. Add 4 of the sausages to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining 4 bratwurst.
  4. Transfer the bratwursts and any accumulated juices to a Dutch oven or slow cooker.  Pour in the beer.
  5. Braise the bratwursts, turning once, until they are completely cooked through, about 30 minutes.
  6. While the brats are braising, add sauerkraut and brown sugar to a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium-low temperature until sugar is dissolved and sauerkraut is heated through.
  7. Place a bratwurst in each bun and serve with sauerkraut and mustard.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Beer Revolution

Sincere apologies to my fellow lovers of beer and food - it's been a while.  In the last two months, there's been an influx of new beer-centric restaurants and pubs, not to mention an increase in patio patrons.

Viva la Revolution!
Beer Revolution on Urbanspoon

Last week I met up with some friends at Beer Revolution: Craft Beer and Pizza.  This is a new addition to the Brewster's company, though less than 100m away from the original brew-pub in Oliver Square.

Bavarian pretzels with sea salt, caraway spice,
and grainy mustard aioli
The concept at Beer Revolution though, is quite different from the parent pub.  Instead of going full brew-pub and brewing their own on-site, Beer Revolution offers a large portfolio of beers brewed not only by Brewsters, but by several local producers and renowned imported brews.

Truffle fries with sea salt, black pepper
and white truffle aioli

Beers are available in 16 oz. pints as well as 8oz. glasses for indecisive (or lightweight) folks like myself.  Friday night is Cask night too, which means an original brew served from the cask in which it was conditioned.  Last week's concoction was a smooth and citrusy Simcoe.

Two of my table-mates had also hurried to order some of the 4 for 4 specials, offered only between 4 and 6pm.  Four different varieties of beers, snacks, and wines are all priced at $4 a portion.  The snacks include the salty Bavarian pretzels, upscale truffle fries, and a pizza special.

The regular pizzas are each 10" x 10" and cleverly named.  The "Everyday Normal Guy" is a straightforward salami, pepperoni and onion variety, while the Newton pushes boundaries with black mission figs and proscuitto.  There's even a pizza named after the infamous competitive eater Furious Pete, with sweet onions and Italian sausage.  And although Beer Revolution lives up to their "Pizza Bar"  classification - their menu is more varied than the name suggests.  I plan to come back to sample the "House cranked links" - a variety of sausages made with pork, lamb, and wild boar.

The "Junior Boy" pizza, with prosciutto, grilled pineapple,
roasted jalapenos, smoked cheddar, and maple syrup

My favorite part of the Beer Revolution experience though, was the music.  Beer Revolution is all rock n' roll, from Zeppelin to the Black Keys.  No Minaj or Beiber to be heard.  The pub also ecourages guests to tweet their requests to be added to the song rotation.

Beer Revolution is another place that's trying the "Tap Takeover" strategy, beginning on June 6th with Howe Sound out of Squamish B.C.  Twelve of the brewery's best ales and lagers will invade the taps.

There are a few more beer destinations set to open this summer.  Keep your eyes open for the Craft Beer Market downtown off Rice Howard Way, a Calgary chain making its way North this summer.  The sign veiling the construction promises more than 100 beer on tap.

What's next in the world of craft beer?  The Edmonton Craft Beer Festival on June 14th and 15th.  I will be on a solemn mission to share my humble opinion of the event and crown my own personal favorite.  See you there!