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!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Cheese Stands Alone

As cheesy as an old school pick-up line
Beer goes extremely welll with cheese, be it macaroni, nachos, pizza, or any other carbohydrate-rich vessel for melty goodness.  However, your beer should NEVER taste like cheese on it's own.  Enter the last beer defect I will mention in a while.

5) A cheesy flavor in beer is caused by isovaleric acid.  The presence of this chemical means something in the brewing process has messed up big time.  The taste threshold is approximately 1ppm in beer, but there are variations in perception between individuals.

Isovaleric Acid (3-methylbutanoic acid)

There are two major causes of this defect, the most common being improper storage of hops. An alpha acid with an isovaleryl group can become oxidized if the hops are old.  The wild yeast Brettanomyces can also cause these cheesy aromas, and are responsible for other undesirable flavors.

One day my partner-in-crime devised a diabolical scheme.  Indeed, a diabolically delicious scheme.  He was determined to create the ultimate selection of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.
The menu was as follows:

Steakhouse Grilled Cheese - Steak, blue cheese, and horseradish.  Blue and rare.

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese - Cream cheese, cheddar, and jalapeno peppers.  Just like what you get at the bar.  Except better.

Mac n' Grilled Cheese - Boxed KD and bacon between two slices of bread.

Sushi Grilled Cheese - Smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado and wasabi.

Breakfast Grilled Cheese - Bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg between two waffles.

Not surprisingly, the jalapeno-popper grilled cheese evolved to include bacon.

And for dessert...

Not yo' mamma's grilled cheese.
Strawberry Angel Grilled Cheese - Strawberries and brie between two slices of angel food cake.

Black Forest Grilled Cheese - Cherry pie filling and chocolate cream cheese between two slices of chocolate cake.

The worst thing about grilled cheese is that it's difficult to have several ready (and still hot) at the same time.  This makes cooking for a large party difficult.  However, the finished product is worth standing over a hot grill in a crowded kitchen for several hours.  Why bother with Kraft singles when there are so many more possibilities.

Black Forest Grilled Cheese

Equally delicious with peanut butter and banana
For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup stout beer (room temperature)
1/3 cup oil or melted butter (unsalted)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp vinegar

For the sandwich:
1 (250g) package chocolate cream cheese (Philadelphia)
1 can cherry pie filling
Butter or margarine for grilling

To Make Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
  2. Sift dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda) together in large bowl.
  3. Make three depressions in the mound of dry ingredients.
  4. Pour oil or melted butter in one depression, vanilla in another, and cider vinegar in the third.
  5. Pour stout all over ingredients and stir until blended.
  6. Pour batter into lined pan and bake until a tester stick or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool 5 minutes before removing cake from pan by carefully lifting the parchment.
  8. Allow to cool for an additional 15 minutes.  Transfer to fridge and cool, uncovered for several hours or overnight.  It will be easier to add fillings if the cake is slightly dry.
  9. Cut loaf into approximately 12 slices.
Assembling the Sandwich:
  1. Spread one slice of chocolate loaf with the cream cheese.
  2. Top cream cheese with a scoop of cherry pie filling and another piece of chocolate loaf.
  3. Spread a thin layer of margarine on each side of the sandwich and gently place on in a heated frying pan or panini grill.
  4. Grill until loaf is slightly crispy and cheese has begun to soften.
  5. Cut in half and serve.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Easy as Pi

Green apple is a flavor you might taste in beer, but is not typically desirable.  The compound that causes green apple flavor in beer is acetaldehyde, a precursor to ethanol formed during fermentation.  This same chemical also gives yogurt that “tangy” taste, and is added to soft drinks and candies.  If you like the green Jolly Ranchers, you have acetaldehyde to thank for your candy’s flavor.

Almost all beers contain trace amounts of acetaldehyde, between 1 – 4 mg/L.  However, higher concentrations (5-15 mg/L) can be unpleasant.

High concentrations of acetaldehyde form in beer when the yeast aren’t given enough time to convert it into alcohol after fermentation.  This often happens when the beer is racked too early, and the beer is said to be too “green”.  Proper conditioning of the beer and a longer aging period gives the yeast time to metabolize the compound and convert it into ethanol or acetate.

Éphémère, verb: Existing only for a short time.
Appropriately named.

However, one brewery has used acetaldehyde to their advantage.  Unibroue from Quebec has devised a brew called Éphémère, a refreshing light-bodied wheat ale with notes of green apple.  It's not overly sweet for a fruit beer, and yet the tartness is not overpowering.

Last week I celebrated my favorite March holiday.  No, it wasn’t St. Patrick’s day.  Although I welcome any excuse to drink beer, my family is from the another British isle.  I’ll save my pint for Robbie Burns day, and celebrate my ¼ Scottish heritage instead.

I’m talking about pi day.  Without this noble number, it would be impossible to measure the circumference of a cask.  Or the area of a keg.  Or the volume of beer in a glass bottle.  Or the quantity of pie I have yet to eat.

I have included a recipe for a dessert pie I made a while ago as well.  Try to wrap your head around this: an apple pie INSIDE an apple.  Pie-ception.  Next time, I might poach them in Éphémère or a sweet and spicy ginger beer, for another layer of flavor.

Chicken, taters, gravy, bacon, and biscuits.
Comfort food doesn't get any comfier.

Chicken Pot Pie

with Bacon Cheddar Beer Biscuit Crust

2 cups chicken, chopped
1 tbsp canola or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium sweet potato, roasted and diced
1/2 cup corn kernels, frozen or canned
½ red pepper, diced
2 tbsp butter
4 Tablespoons flour
1 ½ cup chicken stock
½ cup 2% milk
1 tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
6 strips bacon, cooked crispy
½ cup beer
1 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 425F degrees.

For Biscuits:
  1. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add the ¼ cup butter in pieces.  Cut with a pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly.
  3. Add the cheese, bacon, beer, and milk, stirring until everything is moistened.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until a rough dough is formed.
  5. Roll out the dough to 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter or glass, cut out about 12 biscuits.

For Pot Pie:
  1. Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Add the onions and garlic to pan with a pinch of salt, and sauté until translucent (about 5 minutes).  Set aside.
  2. Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan.  Add flour and whisk to form a roux.
  3. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock and milk to the roux. Bring to a boil.
  4. Once the stock is boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
  5. Combine chicken, onion mixture, sweet potato, and corn in a large casserole.  Pour stock and milk gravy over all ingredients and toss to coat.
  6. Arrange the biscuits to cover the surface of the pot pie. If you have extra biscuits, they can be baked separately on a baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and chicken filling is bubbly.

Serves: 6-8

Hot from the oven and melting my honey heart.
And hopefully my honey's heart.

Apple Pie-ception

An apple pie...inside an apple. 

Mind blown.

5 granny smith apples
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 c brown sugar
½ package refrigerated pie dough
OR Pilsbury Crescents
OR use ½ recipe of your own home-made pie dough

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut off the top of 4 apples off and dice edible portion of caps.  Also slice a small piece off the bottom so the apples will stand on their own.
  3. Remove the inside of each apple with a spoon or melon-baller very carefully, salvaging as much as you can for the filling.
  4. If you can’t save enough of the apple interior, peel and dice the fifth apple for the filling.
  5. Toss diced apples with sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.
  6. Gently fill the apples with the diced and spiced apple filling.
  7. Roll out pie crust and slice into ¼ inch strips. Cover the top of the apple in a lattice pattern with pie crust strips.
  8. Place apples in an 8×8 pan. Add just enough water to the cover the bottom of the pan.
  9. Cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  10. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Mash Sparge Boil.  Home Brew Off Flavors: Acetaldelhyde. July 6th, 2011.

The Brewing Technology Blog. An A – Z of beer flavour – Acetaldehyde. Sep 17th, 2010.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Sugar Bowl

Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Awesome.  Sugar Bowl’s slogan doesn't mince words.

Sugarbowl on Urbanspoon
Daily and weekly specials on the board.

Last week I was granted two great excuses to visit this place.  Once for a reunion with some friends I met while studying abroad, and later in the week for a friend’s birthday.  Though I live very close, my bank account (and no doubt my liver) are grateful for the infrequency of my visits.  Not only does Sugarbowl have what is perhaps the best beer list in town, but the food is equally reputable.  The menu is short, but rife with unique dishes you would never come across elsewhere.

The Sugar Bowl is always filled to the brim with an eclectic mix of students, professors, and other colourful Strathcona County folk.  Be warned – you will wait in line for a table.  No matter what time you visit.  I have usually been met with friendly service, though entrees take their time in arriving during a dinner rush.  One could argue it as an excuse to have another beer.

The perfect sweet and spicy shareable.

I used to be fond of the cheese plate as an appetizer.  Sometimes all I want with my beer is a cheese to pair it with.  However, I found during my recent visit that the variety of cheeses had decreased, as did the portion size.  The smoked cheddar I received the first time was sorely missed.

Cheese aside, the best beer snack that Sugarbowl offers is definitely the Smoked Paprika Popcorn.  Served with a wedge of lime, this shareable is the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and spicy with that addictive crunch you crave.

Though I usually make an effort to try different things on the menu, I find myself coming back to two particular meals: 

Chicken and Waffles was the first item I ordered off the menu many years ago.  At one time, the fried chicken was served in little pieces, though it is now offered thinner and wider cutlets.  I prefer the newer serving style, as I can more easily distribute the chicken amongst the entirety of the waffle.  Though I have ordered this dish for both brunch and dinner, I tend to prefer it for the latter because of its sugary, buttery, richness.  I simply must save room in the morning for part of a cinnamon bun – they’re usually sold out by eleven.

So many little time!
My other favorite is the Lamb Burger, served on a Kaiser with a generous dollop of goat cheese.  One bite into the patty releases a , followed by a hit of acid from the pickle and the tangy goat cheese.  The Guinness mustard ties it all together.  It’s a satisfying treat, and was even voted one of the top 25 things to eat in Edmonton in 2011 for Avenue Magazine.  See below for the recipe revealed.

The wine is fine, and cocktails are classic, but beer is the thing to drink here.  There are X premium drafts and Y rotating taps, with an enticing discount during happy hour from 3-8pm.  Choose from more than 50 different pilsners, wheat beers, stouts, and ales. There’s even a “Hipster” section, where you can order yourself a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.  If that’s how you roll.

Sugar Bowl is also known to host many Cask Nights for Alley Kat.  An unfiltered beer is matured in the cask from which it is served, and often undergoes secondary fermentation with additional hops or flavor agents.  The result is a less carbonated, yet incredibly flavorful brew.

Change can be a good thing, in moderation.  Though the cheese plate could use more generous portions, most of the menu adjustments have the intention of improving the overall experience.  While the beer list remains, my allegiance to the Sugarbowl will persevere.

CBC Edmonton has somehow gotten a hold of the recipes for two of my favorite items on Sugarbowl’s menu.  Now you can make their lamb burger at home, as well as the best cinnamon buns in town.  I know I could never do them justice.

Sugar Bowl Cinnamon Buns

Get 'em before they're gone!

12 cups flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp instant yeast
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter
(more for inside buns)
3 eggs
4 cups tap water

Topping (optional):
Melted butter
Brown sugar and cinnamon to taste

  1. In a small bowl dissolve 1 tablespoon sugar with the yeast in a bit of water. Let it stand until bubbles, about 10-15 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl combine the yeast mixture with the eggs, flour, melted butter, water and salt. Mix well, using a mixer or spoon until dough forms.
  3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured, flat surface. Roll out into a rectangle. The size really depends on how large or small you want to make the buns.
  4. Brush the flattened dough with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.
  5. Starting at the long side, tightly roll up the dough and brush with a bit of melted butter. You can sprinkle the buns with brown sugar if you like, or omit this if you want it less sweet. You can also sprinkle extra cinnamon on top if you want.
  6. With a serrated knife cut the dough into 12 pieces.Place the buns, cut side down, in greased rectangular baking pan.
  7. Cover and let rise for one hour or until it doubles in volume. Keep in a warm place (like above your stove) to help with rising.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 375F degrees and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Sugar Bowl Lamb Burger

1 kg     Ground lamb
2 tbsp   Rosemary, fresh, chopped finely
2 tbsp   Thyme, fresh, chopped finely
2 tbsp   Garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested
2 tbsp coriander (powder)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Pinch of salt and pepper
Brioche buns

Tomato slices
Pickles slices
Organic spring mix or lettuce
Garlic mayo
Guinness mustard (see below)
Goat's cheese
Caramelized onions

  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and gently mix until everything comes together.
  2. Form into thick patties/burgers. Heat your griddle pan or barbecue until it is hot and grill the burgers 3 minutes on each side.
  3. Just before removing from grill, top the burger with a slice of goat's cheese and carmelized onions.
  4. Spread one side of the brioche bun with mustard (at sugar bowl we use a homemade mustard made with Guinness beer), and spread the other side of the bun with garlic mayonnaise.
  5. Layer the burger on the bun with pickle slices, tomato slices and a few leaves of organic spring mix. Enjoy!!!

Guinness Mustard

1  12-oz. bottle Guinness Extra Stout
1 1⁄2 cups brown mustard seeds (10 oz.)
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves
1⁄4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1⁄4 tsp. ground allspice

  1. Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1–2 days so that the mustard seeds soften and the flavors meld.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until the seeds are coarsely ground and the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a jar and cover.
  4. Refrigerate overnight and use immediately or refrigerate for up to 6 months. (The flavor of the mustard will mellow as the condiment ages.)

 Makes 3 ½ cups

Sugar Bowl Edmonton