Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cheers For World Class Beers!

Below is some of my favorite brews that i can reccollect off
the top of my brain and i realize i did not catorgorize it well,
but these are some of the most memorable to me..

Thomas Hardys Barleywine (England) every years vintage varies
and so does taste, but ive yet to have one i didnt like!!
(last i had was 91-95 vintage)
Samuel Smiths Oatmeal Stout (England)
Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale (England)
Old Speckled Hen (England)
New Castle Brown Ale (England)
Bass Ale (England)

Hackor Pschorr (Germany) has always been one of my favorite Ocktoberfests, their
Hefe-Weizen is also one of my favorite Bavarian style wheat beers.
Ayinger Celebrator Bock (Germany) is a wonderfully complex double bock

Guinesss Extra Stout (Ireland... brewed differently for U.S. import)

TRAPPIST BELGIAN BEERS there only 6 Trappist breweries entiteled to this name, and they are excellent in my opinion.
Brewed my monks, they dont fool around! They are all brewed in Belgium hence the name.
DUVAL (translation: the Devil) and CHIMAY are dominant in the american market, yet WESTMALLE TRIPLE and ROCHEFORT 10 (11.5% ABV!) re some of my favorites...though a little harder to find. there are ALOT of EXCELLENT Belgian beers/breweries that ARE NOT Trappist ales
Lindemans fruit lambics. (kriek=cherry, peche=peach, framboise=rasberry) as well as
Boon Lambics Geuze is the perfect blend of old and young lambic beers. It differs from other lambics in that it is unflavored by fruit.
Rodenbach A fantastic sour red beer
Delerium Tremes isnt just for addicts..but an incredible belgian strong ale

American Belgian Style beers i really like are Allagash's Dubbel, Tripel (Maine,U.S.) and a new one for 2005 called Curieux which is the Tripel aged in old Jim Beam oak barrels is one of a kind....
New Belgiums Fat Tire (CO,U.S) is a great one, i havent had the pleasure to try many of their others..
Ommegangs Dubble Abbey (NY,U.S.)style is superior for the price
Unibroux brewery is one of my favorite Canadian beers available in the U.S. Eau BĂ©nite reaches 7.7 % abv Mudite (the damned one) 8% and a great on La Fin Du Monde (the end of the world) is deceiving strong. 9%

and here are some of my favorite U.S.A beers that i can recall...
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (NY,USA)
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (CA,U.S.) one of our countries oldest and finest 'craft brews'
Anchor Steam Beer (CA,U.S.) they got a patent on this old California Common style. They also brew a great Liberty Ale
Harpoon IPA (Mass,U.S.)
Samuel Adams Boston Ale (Mass,U.S)
Mad River Brewing Co' Jamaica Red (CA,U.S.)is incredible
Steelhead Extra Pale Ale (CA,U.S.) Humbolt breeds extra special magic in my opinion
Stoudts Scarlet Lady Ale (PA,U.S) and their American Pale Ale
Long Trails Double Bag (VT,U.S) is a tasty strong ale/bock style.
Abita Turbo Dog (New Orleans,LA U.S) also a bock style.
Grittys Halloween (Portland,ME U.S.) a fall strong ale.
Stone Coast 420 IPA (Maine,U.S.)
dare i mention Yuenglings, (PA,U.S.) the
oldest american Black and Tan
(a combonation of their lager and porter).....
this is either a love/hate beer, and it depends largely on how
my pocket change is doing.

please remember that my memory isnt as good as it used to be
and there are BOATLOAD of great beers Ive either forgotten,
or yet to try......and onward I shall climb till ive tried them all!!!

Monday, November 14, 2005

BEER....Liquid bread..La cerveza..some styles and facts

so ..i racked my brain wondering 'Where do I start about my culinary endeavors?' 'Where do I begin!?!?' So I figured I'd begin where it all began for me as a young lad. My first cooking experiment. My first recipe. BEER!!!!!!! mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.......Beer................
I started to become a beer snob around the age of 18 when I got tired of all the average 'swill' that as a youngster me and my circle of friends consumed sitting around bonfires, playing music, telling stories and letting life grow as my taste buds did... So first a little education on beer by the German purity law of 1516 states that only Barley,water, hops (the main preservative, next to alcohol) and yeast are the ingredients of beer...or a fine was given to lawbreakers!! These days beer is made up with a slew of adjuncts (additives) many for their taste differences, but often cost factors as well. Wheat is one of the most common additives/style beer....used mostly for summer ales and fruit beers.
First let me clear up a few facts that many beer consumers do not know.
There are only 2 general classifications of beer. ALES AND LAGERS.
Most styles of beer fall under these 2 classifications.
An ale is a beer that's yeast ferments at/around room temperature (around 69 deg.F) and the yeast is top fermenting...meaning exactly that, the yeast works its magic fermenting the sugars and bubbling (reproducing) at the top of the tub/vat or whatever fermenting vessel the brewer uses.A lager is a beer that's yeast ferments at the bottom and is done at colder temperatures (usually around 48 deg.F.) and takes longer to make.
A HUGE % of the commercial American market is a generic american lager style ,
(i.e. Budweiser,Coors,miller,michelob,strohs,bush,,..Etc)
its a very light flavored, over commercialized beer that usually lacks differentiation from each other. quoting Charles Papazian's Joy of homebrewing..'specifically one might refer to the flavor as a very light flavored pilsner beer.' (Heineken, Pilsner Urquell)Dont get me wrong, there are subtle dissimilarities.
Believe it or not, light American lagers became largely popular around and between
prohibition/WW I and WWII as well as the increase of cheaper adjuncts like rice (used to make Bud and Coors) as well as corn, a native american crop...there are several reasons that this came about.....but i liked this quote from Mr.Wizard .

Although barley isn’t a common food source for humans, it is a major
livestock feed source. Barley for beef or barley for beer? In times of war
barley for beef was more important.
Another key event during World War II was a large swing in the
beer-drinking demographic. Young men were drafted for the war, and many young
women were recruited for building the American war machine and worked in
factories. Women, who tended to prefer lighter beers, soon became a very large
part of the American beer-drinking market. Many beer historians tie the
lightening of American beer flavor, particularly hopping rates, to this great
change in beer drinking. After the war ended the American palate was drastically
changed. The bland trend was not reserved for beer alone. American food in
general was bland, perhaps because Americans were accustomed to bland foods
during war-time rationing.

this proved to be a GOOD thing for commercial brewers ....and since many of the consumers of these beers couldn't tell the difference, things pretty much stayed the same.
Though a very fresh COLD american and/OR pilsner is quite enjoyable on a hot summer day, its not very often you will catch me drinking one of the american style pilsners (i mean American lagers), let alone brewing one. (there are political reasons that influence my decision as well.....) There are some excellent lagers out there though, my favorites being German Octoberfest, strong winter lagers, Bocks (often represented by a goat to symbolize STRENGTH) and TRUE ice beers called Eisenbocks not to be confused with commercial ice beers that are really only a legal loophole to sell stronger beers in the U.S.
Ales on the other hand are growing in popularity not only because its easier/faster to brew an ale at home, but there are so many different styles of ales out there. When you visit a brew pub, it is usually ales that they are brewing. There are Stouts and Porters, (very similar to each other many with coffee overtones) IPA, (Indian pale ales get their name because Britain had to use extra HOPS, a natural preservative, to help it survive the long boat journeys from England to India) Pale Ales, Amber Ales, (which are more color characteristics than flavor, though generally they tend to have a more malt flavor)......Because of various factors, a style brewed in one country often tastes entirely different than one brewed else where
(compare an English IPA to an American IPA for instance.
The Belgians take great pride in isolating their own yeast strains that give Belgian beer its distinctive flavor. The Belgian Trappist Ales are called DUBBEL, TRIPPEL and sometimes even QUADRUPPELS!!(referring to their strength and malt) The Belgian Monks drink these strong 'Abbey ales' as liquid bread while fasting.
Belgian fruit beers (called LAMBICS) are left to the wild yeasts in the open air (spontaneous fermentation.. i guess an exception to the ale and lager classification rule) that can only be produced from the specific region of around Brussels Belgium. the beers are the true 'champagne' of beers as they taste like fresh fruit soda and often has a sourish flavor.!! (American fruit beers cant even compare.)
English brown ales have a flavor entirely of their own...i especially enjoy the Nut Browns.... no matter how many times ive tried to brew an english brown, it never comes out the same. there are many more styles, but this is just an introductory ramble for pure interest only....
these are the 4 basic ingredients....
Malt is the result of an enzyme reaction when the starches of barley (or another grain) turn to sugar.
Yeast is the one celled single organism that feeds on the sugars and excretes alcohol and carbonation in return. The sediment at the bottom of unfiltered and usually unpasturiezed beers is yeast...but fear not, it is high in vitamin B complex..(may give you a lil' gas too! ;)
Hops are the flowers of a vine that produce the bittering and sometimes floral aroma to beer,
it is also the preserving agent that helps beer stay good for longer (next to alcohol that is)
There are wide variety of hops that grow everywhere in the world so using one type of hop can/will produce en entirely different flavor for a beer.
Water is either hard (high mineral content) or soft (low mineral content) which makes a big difference in flavor believe it or not.
put them all together, along with a little patience and some skill and you havethe wonderful beverage we beer/bier/cerveza... and if this is too much information for some of you, dont worry, in the next section i will share with you some of the worlds best beers...and if you see me, feel free to share one with me!!!

Friday, November 11, 2005


well here i am....my second webblog about my second passion, the culinary arts

so i imagine first i must explain my perspective on the difference between a 'cook' and a culinary artist. Of course remember this is only my opinion and similarities or differences of opinion are either purely coincidental or natural and if you feel like you must tell me, please feel free to email me any corrections or opinions.. To me the big difference ive noticed working in kitchens between a cook and a culinary artist is their attitude towards the food that they put out.

A cook does what he does to get paid (and sometimes doesnt in appreciation to parents out there ;) and often doesnt care one way or another what anybody thinks of the quality, taste and/or presentation of the dish once it leaves the kitchen. "It's only food" was what a recent employers philosophy was.....yea, and art is just colours splattered against paper... the thrill for him was clearly gone.

Culinary arts to me is a passion....an obsession even! after the dish leaves the kitchen and the consumer is through their meal, you find yourself wondering and hoping that they liked it and what they liked best about it! Its when you find yourself walking around doing nothing in particular, day or night dreaming and you wake up and start thinking about what kind of dishs you should make this week, what to do with the leftovers....'.how can I improve this dish?'''does this vegtable/starch/sauce compliment the main protein!?' how will it be understood by my peers and/or more importantly the commercial public?!' Eventually one starts to delve into the scientific aspects of food....ionic bonds, gluten strands, protein breakdowns and the like. One of my favorite informative books is ON FOOD AND COOKING - The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen by Harold McGee this will provide you with more than enough info on how and why things happen in the kitchen AND THEN SOME!!

My main focus of this webblog is to record my recipes and to hopefully educate my readers on the styles/science and philosophies of food and drink. There are tons of introductory culinary arts columns on the web and why should i spend my/your time reitterating what is already out there?? if you want to learn some food basics, i suggest trying out food cooking 101 here which has lots of good basics for beginners. Measurement conversions, food terms and substituions can be found HERE ... need some general cooking advise? try ALL RECIPIES
My favorite culinary magazines is COOKS ILLUSTRATED
because they try out many ways of making a dish and let tasters decide which is best and why, they also do this with common kitchen appliances and ingredients... you DONT always get what you pay for!! Bon Appetite and GOURMET are also very good magazines...Ive read a bit of COOKING LIGHT as well and its pretty cool if you're on/into the diet thing ( I KNOW I AINT GETTIN ANY THINNER MYSELF!!)

So a little about my influences....I grew up around Italian cuisine everywhere around Philadelphia, im Irish and have worked under Irish chefs, French chefs, fusion asian/american chefs, southwestern/tex-mex chefs and have a deep love for Indian and Thai cuisines. I have been deeply immersed in vegetarian, vegan and raw foods diets for 15 years now as a result of the large amount of friends and musical culture that i have been immersed in. I also have a deep respect for Ayurvedic healing....an Indian approach to balancing our body and healing thru food, herbs and spices. Its important to eat healthy whenever possible and remember food is not just food...its a way of life!! I have been a home brewer of beer for almost 14 years now and have been finely tuning my palate ever since.
I am trying to become a wine connoisseur if only my finances would permit it. My taste buds are constantly evolving, maturing and developing, just as ones musical and artistical tastes change....everbodys does.....hopefully for the better.... so hopefully this might educate some readers and teach somebody SOMETHING!!....even i will learn while developing this blog. Bon Apetite' and CHEERS!