This seems as good a place as any to document my work trip through London, all of Belgium (with a side trip north to La Trappe), and then onward to Cologne, Germany to wrap things up. Much thanks to Artisanal Imports for the opportunity to meet with our amazing portfolio of suppliers.
Our first order of business after overnight flights from the States involved a presentation and cider drinking with Henry Chevallier of Aspall Cyders. Before that though, we needed a few pints of English ale to settle into our brief English stop.
We settled into the Euston Flyer for Fuller’s and Butcombe ales. The Butcombe pale was a solid rendition of the English pale and the Fuller’s ESB tasted as I recalled it from American pubs and from my last visit here in 2000. We also had another pint at at a Fuller’s house inside St. Pancras station while visiting what appeared to be Platform 9 and 3/4 of Harry Potter fame. That was a goofy detour but the Butcombe bitter had a less soft hop profile than the Fuller’s that meshed well with a beautiful London summer day walking around Camden. While the Euston Flyer had a very familiar pub feel, the St. Pancras bar (name forthcoming) had more of kitsche small town Inn feel with barrels and nooks and crannies, yet sat atop the train station. All the beers were off beer engines. Honestly, preferred serving style is the proper cask pull, for almost all the classic British styles (including even our American version of the IPA).
It is hard to get used to the Tied Houses system of England, which I understand I should expect in some form in Belgium too. Fuller’s works with our Veltins from Germany (Grevenstein), and brings in Sierra Nevada too. I wonder how this alters margins, since distribution and warehousing arrangements can be negotiated and importers and distribution networks are arranged differently. I’ll have to interrogate a boss or two for some more information.
Our afternoon with Aspall’s Henry went as expected. The 8th generation ciderman is an erudite and well traveled Englishman with a great charm to him, as well as a sense of humor that handles 6 Americans with ease. I hope to snag him for a Chicago market visit soon, as we do love our Aspall back home. I won’t get into the Chevallier-Aspall history now, but it was fascinating to talk about additives that many cider makers use to produce an inferior product. The English countryside that slides by off this Eurostar train I’m writing from evokes the farmlands of America, and makes the connection for me between an agricultural product like Aspall cyders and the land from which it is sourced.
More later, but the rest of the evening included trying an English-only Aspall release called Harry Sparrow (named for a former long-time head cider maker) and Dark Star brewing company’s Hophead Golden Ale.
Catching up with posts.
Someone from the brewery put this in a box without me realizing it months ago. I like this way more than I expected! Radly made pals!
A beer riff on the Dark & Stormy, which is rum, ginger beer, lime, and then a darker rum floating on top, creating the name and effect. Ginger gets misused a lot in beer, in my opinion, often combining poorly with lower attenuation to create a candy sweetness. Here, the beer felt dry enough, even a little bit of a funkiness to it, that the ginger and lime played a subtle and appropriate role.
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A 2012 argiano super Tuscan paired with/
mozzarella, stracciatella, calabrian chile, red onion, berkshire sausage, basil pizza.
Highly recommended pairing at Coalfire. I need more details about this wine for an upcoming wine post.
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Malt expressed as caramel and almost a light molassesy funk. Almost like an aged darker rhum agricole. Nice balance of co2 and brett that doesn’t dominate. A little bread maybe. A touch of alcohol heat. Cherry and peach in the aroma carry through to the body. Really elegant beer. Touch sweeter than I expected after 22 months. The residual sweetness, and it being rather bready, combined with the funk, makes me approach this like a Biere de Garde. Would be great with rich meat dishes.
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In no particular order yet. This will change over time, as I fail to keep up with one place versus falling in love with another. Or, as a brewery adds releases that I am not as in love with as their prior work. Or it’ll expand. What I’m saying is, this is based on the past week or two of drinking, things I’m excited to drink, and so on. Dear Friends on this list: Don’t make a big stink when you are off it for a month or two, or if aren’t on it yet. Relax, don’t worry, have a beer. Also, this is based on stuff I can get. I love Russian River, but I do not randomly run into it at a bottle shop and get to make a last minute decision to buy it at a bar when I should be going home. Readers, twitter followers, etc, feel free to suggest other favorites and I’ll just grow this more and turn it into a behemoth.
4. Off Color
5. The Bruery
6. New Glarus
7. North Coast
11. Perennial Artisan Ales
15. Central State
17. Forbidden Root
20. Firestone Walker
21. Maine Beer Co
Who: Eric Wallace, Founder and President of Left Hand Brewing + you
What: Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout, barrel-aged!; Wekken Sour (Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout blended with De Proef Brouwerij Zoetzuur Flemish Red) plus Polestar Pilsner, Milk Stout Nitro, Sawtooth ESB, and Introvert IPA.
When: Wednesday, January 27th, 7:30 PM
Where: Sheffield’s Beer and Wine Garden
Why: If you need this part answered, you aren’t doing life right!
How: Just show up. Enjoy yourself. Chat with one of the dudes that started this beer revolution. Chat with some cool beer people who run the legendary Sheffield’s. Chat with some folks who sell beer all over Chicago. Chat with me, I’ll be there by 8:30.
The Heidi toddy. Or is it the Toddy Goldman? Heidi’s chai tea infused vodka, egg white, honey syrup, splash of fresh squeezed lemon. Garnished with cinnamon and @bittercube cherry bark vanilla bitters.
2 oz Chai Tea-infused Vodka (see below for process)
1.5 oz of milk
1 oz honey syrup
0.25 oz fresh lemon juice
Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters
Dry shake (without ice) all ingredients but bitters for 10 seconds. Get furious with it. Then add ice and shake for 15 seconds. Strain over ice. Garnish with the bitters.
Infusion – ratio of 5 tablespoons of chai tea (loose) to 3 cups (basically 1 bottle is fine) of vodka. Shake daily for a week, store away from sunlight. Strain, make cocktail above.
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The Road Runner at The Dawson
Gingerbread-rooibos infused Kappa Pisco
Bacardi 8 Rum
BroVo Spirits Lucky Falernum
A delicious spiced cocktail that comes across the palette as subtle waves of cinnamon, clove, ginger, and anise, and ends dry, spices lingering just a little bit.
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Farm Bar’s first official event since opening a few months ago. This milk stout from Half Acre gets brewed with lactose sugar and cacao. Lactose sugar is unfermentable by beer yeast, giving you a rather luscious mouthfeel that compliments chocolate, and in turn both compliment earthy English hops (Fuggles) that balance the sweetness.
Chocolate Camaro will be on a regular tap line AS WELL as on a nitro line. Compare the two. Also on tap are Malibu Stout (featuring galaxy hops), Shrub Tundra (a coffee brown ale), and a Lychee fruit IPA collaboration. All pours only $6 dollars from 5-9 PM.
Here’s a fun link to the Reader’s review that also included musical suggestions from reviewer Philip Montaro.