Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Find Your Beach

Why does it need a lime?
It’s a beautiful day. Thirty degrees above zero. You’re in Mexico. You want a beer. It’s 3pm and the bar has been in the sun until noon. Bartender hands you a Corona. The bar is out of limes. Why is this a problem?

Corona is served with a slice of lime to cover up the unpleasant consequences of natural light oxidation on flavor. Isohumulones are responsible for the bitter taste we associate with beer. When beer is exposed to natural light, the isohumulones react with trace sulfur compounds to form MBT 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol (MBT). This compound has a distinct “skunky” flavor, and is very similar in structure to the mercaptans that a skunk will spray its attackers with.

No shoes, no shirt, no lime, no problem.
How do you prevent this? Heat speeds up the oxidation, so keeping the beer in a cold and dark place (like a fridge – not an ice bucket) is the best strategy. However, chances are you won’t be able to bring your bar fridge along to the beach, and a Coleman cooler can only hold so much beer.

Clear bottles, like the ones used by Corona and Sol, are most susceptible to light exposure. Green bottles are not much better, thus Dos Equis and many European pilsners are also at risk. Brown glass provides the best protection against light oxidation, but is not immune to the effects of long-term exposure to light. If the bar is out of limes, see if they have Modelo or Pacifico, both available in brown bottles, or Tecate or Pacifico in cans.

I like to drink beer in the kitchen, but I have my rules. No beer until after the knives are put away. Safety first.

Sweet potatoes in particular have always been a problem – they’re just too hard to cut raw. Thus, I always end up with chunks that are too large, with an undesirable mushy texture throughout. Cooking them in their skins before slicing makes them far easier to cut, and . Smaller pieces = crispier fries. Problem solved.

I like to add lime zest to mine because I’m original. You should be too. Toss the fries in a bit of cumin, chili powder, or smoked paprika, to spice it up. Or just keep it simple and let the chipotle aioli do the talking.

Sweet potato pyramid!

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries

2 lb sweet potatoes (3-4 medium sized)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp lime zest
1 tbsp lime juice
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

1.      Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line two shallow baking sheets with aluminum foil, shiny side facing out.
2.      Scrub the skin of the sweet potatoes and punch holes in the skins with a fork.
3.      Place the sweet potatoes on the baking sheets and bake for 30-40 minutes.
4.      When the sweet potatoes begin to , remove them from the oven and cut into .  The centers should still be firm and undercooked.
5.      Drizzle with olive oil and toss with lime zest, salt, and black pepper.
6.      Return fries to baking sheet in a single layer.
7.      Bake for another 20-30 minutes until crisp around the edges.
8.      Serve warm with chipotle aioli.

Serves 4

Chipotle Aioli

½ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp lime juice
1 tbsp chipotle purée

1.      Stir together ingredients.
2.      Serve as a dip with sweet potato fries, or as a spread for sandwiches.

Makes ½ cup

Note: To make chipotle puree, blend the contents of a 7 oz. can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce until smooth.  Add this stuff to anything – hummus, tomato sauce, mac n’ cheese, cornbread, chocolate...maybe.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Pourhouse on Whyte

Amber's Vanilla Whiskey Stout -
When you can't choose between whiskey and beer.
The Pourhouse Bier Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Pourhouse Bier Bistro is one of my favorite places on in Edmonton to eat and drink.  The casual ambience makes it the perfect location for an for an impromptu pint or a special get-together.

There are always enough people for a lively atmosphere, but never so busy that one can’t find a table.  The staff has always been friendly and attentive during my visits, and I am never disappointed.

The menu focuses on gourmet pub grub, and offers some unique choices to pair with your beer.  A Nathan’s Coney Island Original Hot Dog or a grilled bratwurst with wine sauerkraut is the perfect complement to a cold pint of lager.

Spent grains from the brewing process are incorporated into a vegetarian burger for more health-conscious patrons.  My one complaint is the lack of fries on the menu.  However, this one deficiency is made up for by the quality of the Bistro Nachos, with fresh guacamole and tomato corn salsa made in-house.

Barley's Angel - The Girliest Beer of All
And of course, the beer list.  Twenty-four lagers, twelve Ales, twelve Wheat beers, and five specialty brews are offered regularly, with another several draught varieties. Two taps are reserved for the offerings of local breweries.  I was fortunate to have sampled the Whytemud Vanilla Whiskey Stout from Amber’s Brewing Company during my visit.

The Pourhouse also offers a unique beer cocktail.  The “Strawberry Angel” is the more innocent younger sister of the “Dirty Hoe”, consisting of a bottle of Früli topped off with the zesty Blanche de Chambly.  Try and order one with a straight face.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Hops and Robbers

Single-hopped with Simcoe

Single-hopped beers are a great way to really get to know your hops.  They allow a brewer or beer enthusiast to identify key flavour characteristics of the different varieties that exist.  There are more than 50 species of hops grown in Europe and North America, each with unique properties.  For the American Cascade variety has distinct grassy characteristics that are not attributed to the spicy aromas of Saaz, used in Czech pilsners.

Not all hop varieties are suitable for single-hopped beers, as they must have a high enough alpha acid content to effectively bitter and preserve the beer.  Alpha acids are the compounds in hops that are responsible for beer’s bitter flavour, and also contribute to preservation.  Bittering hops have alpha acid concentrations of 10% or higher, and are added to the kettle early in the brewing process.

Warrior hops - not to be messed with
In contrast, aroma hops have only about 5% , and are added towards the end of the boil to contribute aromatic oils and volatile compounds to the brew.  Aroma hops are often responsible for the fruity, floral, and citrus qualities of a flavourful India Pale Ale.

Alley Kat also just released the fourth beer in their series of single-hopped DIPAs.  If I were to use one word to describe The “Black Dragon”, I would say “angry”.  This DIPA is single-hopped with Warrior to 70 IBUs, a level of bitter that leaves little room for citrus hop aromas.  The drying sensation will linger at the back of your tongue for several minutes.

Two Danish homebrewers who made it big.
The Mikkeller Brewery out of Denmark has also released a series of 19 India Pale Ales, each brewed with a different single variety of hops. I selected the Simcoe variety, looking for a similar brew to remind me of my favorite Alley Kat DIPA so far, the “Red Dragon”.  I was not disappointed.  The citrus notes and fruity esters of the fresh Simcoe were complemented by a balance of Pilsner, Cara-crystal and Munich malts.

I’m looking forward to sampling the rest of the Mikkeller series to educate myself differences between the hops.  Citra, Amarillo, and Tomahawk are among the many I have written on my list of “Beers to Try”.

Picture Credits