Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Brown-Eyed Girl

The popularity of craft beer has exploded in the past few years.  In Edmonton especially, there are many restaurants serving locally produced craft beers and various interesting imports.  However, there are still a lot of bars that only carry beers from big-name companies like Molson and Heineken. You usually have a choice between Generic Lager A, Generic Lager B, Generic Import Lager, and Guinness.  If you're lucky, you might see Newcastle, the happy medium.

Brown ales are characterized with their use of brown, medium-roasted malt varieties.  English Pale Malt is typically used as the base, while crystal malt will usually account for 10-15% of the total grain bill. Chocolate malt may be added sparingly, while black and dark malts may constitute less than 2% of the total grain bill if used at all.

Perhaps the "Hanging Judge" would have
been more lenient if he'd had
some of this here beer
Newcastle Brown Ale is the most well-known specimen.  Although the brewery was established by a third generation brewer in 1925, the company was bought by Heineken International in 2008.  Though Newcastle is a nice change from the other big-brand lagers, there are many beers of this style available from craft brewers.  Not only does your purchase supports a smaller company, it is likely to be far more delicious.

For an authentic English brown ale, look to the oldest brewery in Yorkshire for an excellent Nut Brown Ale.  The Samuel Smith Brewery was established in 1758, and still uses water from the original well, drawn from 85 feet below the ground.

There are several fine brown ales produced on this side of the Pacific as well.  Rogue makes Hazelnut Brown Nectar, brewed with seven different malt varieties and hopped with Perle and Sterling.  Naramata Nut Brown Ale is one of Cannery Brewing Company’s most popular products, and is another excellent example of the style.

Black truffle oil.
Because I'm fancy, huh.
For the following recipe I used Tall Timber Ale from Mt. Begbie Brewery out of Revelstoke.  The mountain in question is a named after Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, the first Chief Justice of the Crown Colony of British Columbia.  He earned the name "Hanging Judge" Begbie for his severe judicial rulings.

“I should make something fast for dinner that doesn’t involve bacon and/or beer” is not something I often think, much less say out loud.  Perhaps the thought “I have never made normal risotto before, much less a barley and beer concoction” should also have crossed my mind before I began this experiment.  I sat down to dinner at 10:08pm, after carefully plating my creation.  It was worth the wait.

Bacon, Beer, Barley, and ‘Bello Risotto

Beer, meet your maker.  Barley.

3 tbsp olive oil, divided
6 slices uncooked bacon, diced
½ a small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups pot barley
1 ½ cups (355ml) brown ale
5 cups beef broth
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 ½ oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 large Portobello mushrooms
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp black truffle oil (optional)
6 fresh sage leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large frying pan, toast the barley kernels over medium heat until lightly browned.  Remove from heat.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add bacon pieces and sauté until cooked through.
  3. Add onions to pan and cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until garlic is fragrant.
  5. Add toasted barley to bacon and onion mixture. Cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring to coat.
  6. Pour in the beer and turn the heat up to high until the beer begins to simmer. Once the liquid begins to simmer, reduce heat back to medium-low.
  7. Add ½ cup beef broth and stir until the liquid is absorbed.
  8. Continue to add beef broth, ½ cup at a time. Repeat until all the broth has been added and the grains are tender with a creamy consistency.
  9. Heat remaining 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 sage leaves in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  10. Rinse mushrooms and scrub gently to remove dirt.
  11. When sage begins to sizzle, place both Portobello mushrooms face down in the olive oil.  Pour the balsamic vinegar and truffle oil onto the gills.
  12. When mushrooms begin to brown, flip and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  13. Remove the barley mixture from the heat and stir in parmesan cheese.
  14. Plate a cup of the barley risotto on each plate.  Top with sliced Portobello mushroom and garnish each with a fresh leaf of sage.

Serves 4

Note: You can use pearl barley for a smoother texture.  However, pot barley has more fibre as the bran remains attached to the grain.  If your diet is similar to mine, and encompasses a large quantity of bacon and beer, I’d recommend using the pot barley for the health benefits.

Smith, Brad (2008).  Beersmith Home Brewing Blog
Photo from Chronicle Live (2009).

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Falafel + Nachos = Falachos

Next level food porn.
This article has less to do with beer, but more to do with my most recent brainchild.

Nachos are by far my favorite bar snack.  And donairs are the prescription for post-imbibing munchies.  Falafel is donair's hot vegetarian cousin.

Falafel + Nachos = Falachos.
The name is suggestive if you have a dirty mind, but the dish is delicious no matter how you pronounce it.

The success of falachos got me thinking...what other culinary concept could I fuse with nachos?

Buffalachos: Corn chips with buffalo chicken, hot sauce, and blue cheese.

Jambalachos: Corn chips with andouille sausage, shrimp creole, cheese, and Tiger sauce (I’ll probably leave out the okra).

Kormachos (Indian) : Papadum chips with chicken korma, lentil dal, coriander, and tamarind chutney.

Breakfast Nachos: Melba toasts with scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, cheese, and hollandaise sauce.

Dessert Nachos: Cinnamon sugar pita chips with melted chocolate, fruit salsa, and whipped cream.

I could open an entire restaurant that served only nachos!

In the meantime, enjoy this Middle Eastern-inspired bar snack.  If you consume these before going to the bar, make sure you brush your teeth.  Or else you may be the only one on the dance floor.  SO MUCH GARLIC!

Garlic Pita Chips

No-meat nachos made from pita.
A bar snack to satisfy the PETA (*crickets*)
4 pita breads
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp minced garlic
½ tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut pitas into triangles, and tear the pockets apart.
  3. Whisk together olive oil and garlic.  Brush mixture on each pita triangle.
  4. Arrange pitas on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crisp.

Makes about 72 pita chips


Great balls of fibre!
This snack has bowel health benefits.
1 can chickpeas, drained
¾ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup onion, finely diced
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
¼ cup minced fresh mint
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp canola oil for frying
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine all ingredients except canola oil.
  3. Process with a food processor or handheld blender until an even consistency is reached.
  4. Form mixture into balls approximately 1” diameter.
  5. Heat oil in pan and add falafel, lightly pressing dough to form patties.
  6. Cook for about 1 minute on each side or until crisp.
  7. Transfer patties to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until patties are heated through.

Makes about 24 small falafel patties

Roasted Garlic Beer Hummus

Plated like a boss.
1-19 oz. can of chickpeas, drained
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini
1 head roasted garlic
½ cup beer
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt

  1. Combine all ingredients except parsley and blend with a handheld blender or food processor until a smooth consistency is reached.

Makes about 2 cups hummus


Better than sour cream?
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cucumber
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Peel and seed cucumber.
  2. Grate cucumber finely and drain to remove excess moisture.
  3. Combine cucumber with remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Makes 1 cup tzatziki

Bar snack fusion.


1 recipe garlic pita chips
1 recipe falafel
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 tomato, diced
4 tbsp za’atar (spice mixture)
1 recipe beer hummus
1 recipe tzatziki
Fresh parsley to garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Arrange half the pita chips on two large baking sheets.
  3. Crumble half the falafel over the pita chips.  Evenly distribute 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and 2 tbsp of the first layer of chips.
  4. Arrange remaining pita chips on top of first layer.  Top with remaining falafel, cheese, diced tomato, and za’atar.
  5. Bake.
  6. Garnish with finely minced fresh parsley and extra za’atar.
  7. Serve with beer hummus and tzatziki.

Roasted Garlic Beer Hummus recipe adapted from The Beeroness
Additional photos from,, and www.aoinspiration.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Admiral Ack-beer

Not a real beer, unfortunately.
I only wish

I’ll make no secret about it.  I am a nerd.  Especially when we’re talking food.  Or beer.  I get way too excited about the Maillard reaction and fermentation.  I will yell at the contestants on Iron Chef as if I were a hockey referee.

I have a theory about nerds.  A nerd is simply an individual with considerable enthusiasm on a specific topic.  It’s not enough for me to know what foods I like, I have to know WHY they taste good.  “Cool” people try too hard to care (about anything), and are therefore no fun to hang around.
One beer to rule them all.

Several breweries have thought to release special edition beers named after science fiction movies and epic novels.  Take Hoptimus Prime from Ruckus Brewing Company, a double IPA with aggressive hop flavour.  There is also SobeRing thought from Harrington’s Brewery, out of Christchurch, New Zealand.  This precious stout has an ABV of only 1%, and was the official brew enjoyed by the actors in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

These are not the beers we're looking for.
While the newer Star Wars episodes pale in comparison to the original trilogy, I will admit that I saw Episode I three times in theatres.  Sierra Nevada recently released the Empire Strikes Black, an easy-drinking barrel aged stout with an ABV of 9.8%.  The force is strong with this one.  Also check out the Imperial Stout Trooper from New England Brewing Company in Woodbridge, Conneticut.

An illogical, yet
palate-pleasing libation.
Although I have seen little n, I am a big fan of the movie remake with x and y.  Cannery Brewing company Vulcan Ale.  If you can find it, get yourself a case of Romulan Ale, a blue-hued beverage secretly brewed in El Salvador and distributed to the masses.  While this brew was made illegal due Federation trade embargo in the late 23rd century, it’s worth all risks of imprisonment or death.

The Perseids meteor shower occurred this past weekend, peaking in the central time zone at 1am on August 12th. I joined up with some fellow science enthusiasts and outran the city lights to watch the stars fall.  We passed around my guitar, toasted Timbits over the fire (among other things), passed around a Vulcan Ale, and munched on these breadsticks.  It’s not safe to stare into the cosmos on an empty stomach.

Twisted and delicious.

Rosemary Prosciutto Twists

4 cups unbleached flour
1 ½ tbsp sugar
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 ½ cups (355ml) room-temperature beer
2 tbsp cornmeal
16 slices prosciutto (cured ham)
Sea salt for garnishing
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, yeast, salt, rosemary, and Italian seasoning.
  2. Gradually pour in beer and 3 tbsp olive oil, mixing to form a dough.
  3. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
  4. Form dough into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl.
  5. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in bulk. This will take about 1-1½ hours.
  6. Punch dough down and let rise again, another hour or so.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  8. Divide dough into 16 balls of even weight.
  9. Roll dough into long cylinders and twist each around one slice of prosciutto.
  10. Dust the bottom of each twisted breadstick in cornmeal to prevent sticking to baking sheet.
  11. Brush each breadstick with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
  12. Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve warm.

The 14 Geekiest Beers the Free Market Has to Offer.  Geekosystem, Feb. 8th, 2012.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Sacré Brew

A damn hot mess.
Of fries and gravy.

Quebec is home to a vibrant craft beer scene.  Montreal is home to many excellent brew pubs, and hosts the the annual Festival Mondial Biere in early June.  Admission is free and samples cost between $1 and $5. Find out more at  There are other great microbreweries in smaller towns, including Chambly to the east.  I’d love to do a road trip and visit each one.

McAuslan has been Quebec’s foremost brewery since 1989, and is located on St-Ambroise street in the St-Henri borough.  They .  The St. Ambroise label makes an excellent oatmeal stout, and produces Citrouille, possibly the best pumpkin ale on the market.

Dieu du Ciel is one of my favorite craft breweries of all time, as you may have noticed by the freequent references to their products on this blog. Their most popular products include Aphrodisiaque (a vanilla chocolate stout with a hint of bourbon) and Roseé d’Hibiscus (a wheat beer infused with hibiscus flowers).  The Route des Épices, a rye beer brewed with green and pink peppercorns, is another excellent example of the brewery’s innovative recipes.

It's pronounced "poo-tin", not "poo-teen".
Like Vladmir Putin.
Unibroue was born in 1990 when André Dion and Serge Racine became majority shareholders of La Brasserie Massawippi, a financially brewery in Lennoxville.  They partnered with a Belgian brewer, n, and began brewing in the style characterized by trappist monks in Europe.  Their beers are produced using traditional bottle fermentation methods, and are named after legends and myths from Quebec folklore.  Be sure to try Fin du Monde (“the End of the World”) before the Mayan calendar ends on December 21st.

Quebec has also contributed many unique traditions to Canadian cuisine, including tourtière (meat pie), sugar pie, and Montreal smoked meat.  Perhaps the most important culinary contribution originating in Quebec however, is poutine – the archetypal combination of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy.  The earliest mention of poutine in history was in 1957 at the restaurant Lutin Qui Rit.  A customer named Eddy Lanaisse wanted to purchase some fries, but saw cheese curds on the counter.  He requested that the fries and the curds be mixed together.  To this the restaurateur Fernand LaChance replied “ça va faire une maudite poutine” (it will make a damn mess).
Woodsmen in the sky with diamonds.

The word “Maudite” means “damned” or “cursed”, and has its own peculiar origin.  The Legend of “Chasse-Galerie” tells of eight daring woodsmen who pledged their souls to the devil, asking only that he would fly their canoe home to their village for the Holidays.  During the canoe’s majestic flight, one sailor chose to invoke the name of God, freeing himself from the pledge and causing the canoe to crash down to earth.  Maudite is an excellent beer by Unibroue, a strong wheat ale by that goes down way too easy.  The flavors of orange, coriander, and floral hops add a spicy complexity to the gravy in this quintessential Canadian comfort food.

Oven Fries

4 Russet potatoes
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Scrub and slice potatoes into long fry-shaped slices.
  3. Toss potatoes in olive oil, canola oil, and salt.
  4. Heat the oil to 300°F in frying pan.
  5. Add half the potatoes to frying pan and cook until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove first batch from pan and repeat with remaining potatoes.
  7. Spread fries onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment.
  8. Bake until crisp and golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Note: Aside from being extremely delicious, olive oil has many health benefits (monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, etc.).  However, it has a low smoke point and is not a good frying oil.  Use some canola oil to get the best of both worlds.

Maudite Poutine

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 ¼ cups beef stock
¾ cup dark wheat ale
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
1 recipe oven fries
1/2 pound fresh cheese curds

  1. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the butter and flour. Whisk to form a roux.
  2. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes for a dark roux.
  3. Gradually add beef broth and beer, whisking thoroughly to combine.
  4. Season with Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, salt and pepper.
  5. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Remove gravy from heat when completely thickened and keep warm.
  7. To assemble the poutine, place a mound of fries on each bowl or plate and top with cheese curds. Spoon gravy over fries and cheese to serve.

Montreal Poutine