Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recipe: Samuel Adams Oktoberfest Porkchops with Mustard and Onions

I cook with beer on a fairly regular basis and one of my favorites is one I found years ago on the Samuel Adams (Boston Beer) website for Oktoberfest Porkchops. Recently, I went to look for the recipe and couldn't find it. To my dismay, I then found out that the recipe was no longer on the Sam Adams website either!

Luckily, a liquor store in Minnesota called Sutler's posted the recipe and I was able to get it back.

So, because a) I really love this recipe and want to share it and b) I want to save it somewhere I can find it, here is the recipe for Samuel Adams Oktoberfest Porkchops! (one modification I make if using Sam Adams Double Bock when I can get it...)

4 thick cut rib pork chops 2-3 lbs. total
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Samuel Adams Oktoberfest beer
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp coarse grained mustard
1/2 cup sour cream
chopped fresh dill or chives

Season the chops generously with salt, pepper, dill, and dry mustard. Heat the oil in a heavy 12 inch skillet over high heat and brown the chops for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the chops and all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Put in the onion, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft. Arrange the chops on top of the onions, pour in the beer and vinegar, cover, and simmer for around 30 minutes until meat is quite tender. Transfer the chops to a platter and keep warm. Add the remaining mustard to the pan and reduce the sauce to a syrupy consistency. Turn off the heat, stir in the sour cream, and pour the sauce over the chops. Garnish with dill or chives.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Belgium Trip, Day 5 - Part I: Westvleteren

Sleep was fitful at best in the Polo. It was cramped and it was quite cold in the Ardennes that night. All the above being the case ensured that we were up, packed and checked out just before daylight and on the road to the Westvleteren Abbey in western Flanders.

Now, if you're reading this blog you already know that Westvleteren Abbey has quite a mystique surrounding it due to the ales that the abbey produces. They are one of 6 Trappist breweries in Belgium but are the only one that does not officially distribute their beers. They sell cases at the brewery by appointment but when you find them elsewhere it is strictly black market and VERY expensive. I have never thought that buying bottles for $20 each was really worth it but I was certainly going to make a special point to visit their cafe to try these legendary beers for myself. The timing of my trip was bad and I was unable to schedule a time to buy some beer at the abbey but I had heard that they sometimes sell mixed six-packs in the cafe store.

We arrived at the abbey cafe, In De Vrede, just after the opening time of 10:00. I headed in and checked the cafe beer available for sale. Bummer. But I couldn't be too disappointed. How many mornings do you have the opportunity for some fresh Westvleteren ales?
I ordered some pate and a Westvleteren Blonde, Dave decided to start with the Westvleteren 12 and work his way down. The blonde was crisp, fruity and hoppy. The least hyped of the Westvleteren ales, the blonde did not disappoint at all. This is not a beer built for aging (only 5.8%, forward hop character) so maybe it doesn't arrive across the Atlantic in the best shape. Fresh however, it is stunningly good.

I continued with the pate and we ordered a couple Westvleteren 8's. The 8 is a dark brown ale, a Trappist dubbel that is 8% ABV. Lots of earthy, bready flavors interlaced with all kinds of malty, dark fruit sweetness. There is a hint of alcohol but it disguises its strength for the most part and surprisingly has a fair amount of bitter, herbal hops in the finish. Excellent beer. Well done.

I ordered a hommelpaptaart (quite literally, a "hop-tart") and the Westvleteren 12. The Westvleteren 12 has the reputation of being the best beer in the world. It was time to find out. The 12 weighs in at 10.8% and whatever I said about the 8, the 12 is all that and more. It's very fruity with aromas of black currant and ripe plum. It fills the mouth with a rich maltiness and lots more of that dark fruit. The alcohol is quite pronounced and maybe a little hot. This beer was very young. Again, even with the big malt profile, there are some hops detectable in the finish. Really outstanding.

(As an aside, I thought I would address the notion of these beers as "the best in the world". They are all top-notch beer, there is no doubt about it. But if I were to compare the 12 against similar beers, would I say that is is head and shoulders above Rochefort 10 or St. Bernardus Abt 12? No. They are all so close in quality that it you would be hard pressed to say which is the "best". It was surely worth the trip to the cafe and I would like to buy some to take away on my next trip to Belgium. But I don't think I will be paying exorbitant black market prices to get them. The relative difference in taste is certainly no worth the enormous difference in price.)

After a couple hours and three quite strong ales, we decided to stroll around ground around the abbey to make sure we were OK to drive. There is a trail system around the countryside near the abbey so we went out for a walk for about an hour or so. It was quite a beautiful day and more pictures of that walk will follow. About 1:00 PM, we got back to the car and started toward Brugge.

If you have the opportunity, a visit to In De Vrede is well worth the trip. Three world-class beers, some fairly good food and a picturesque abbey in the Flanders countryside.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Out of the Cellar: The List!

I inventoried my beer cellar and uploaded the data to Google Docs so I could share it online.

The link is over to the right or you can click here. I'll be updating it periodically if you care to check it out...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pictures of Wallonie: Achouffe and La Roche-en-Ardenne

More pics from the Achouffe brewery and more...

Wallonie; Achouffe and La Roche-en-Ardenne

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Belgium Trip, Day 4: Off to Wallonia

Monday morning I walked over a few blocks from the hostel and picked up the rental car, a Volkswagen Polo, and drove it back to the hostel to load up. We got a bit of a late start because I had to go get a new wireless NIC. Mine had died suddenly and since Skype was my primary form of communication home, I wanted to get one before heading out to the country. We grabbed some breakfast, loaded up the Polo and headed south toward the Ardennes.

View Larger Map
It was a drive of just under two hours to reach the village of Achouffe. Our destination? The Achouffe brewery and tavern of course! We got there at about 12:30 and went straight into the tavern for lunch.

The Achouffe tavern is rustic and eclectic. Lots of old exposed timbers, various old beer paraphernalia and plants. On top of this, there are chouffes and gnomes lurking everywhere! They are in nooks on the wall, on shelves, hanging from the ceiling, etc. Cozy, yet airy at the same time.

After seating ourselves, I started out with a Chouffe Royale thinking it was a special brew unique to the cafe. I was wrong! It was actually a mixed drink of La Chouffe and some sort of liqueur. Interesting but it really wasn't for me and I was disappointed that I wasted some of my sobriety on it.

They offered "menus" for multiple course meals. I picked the three course meal while Dave got a 5-course meal and we mixed and matched from there.

Highlights: My first course was warm goat cheese. It was actually two thick pieces of partially melted goat cheese on a large piece of toast. Heavenly. Dave shared some of his pate made with McChouffe beer. Wonderful. The cheese plate that came after the main course was really good too. I didn't catch what kind of cheese it was but it was creamy and soft.

I had some Chouffe Bok, a beer that I didn't think was even brewed anymore. Lovely malty beer and a real treat for me.

After a leisurely lunch, we headed over to the brewery store. I picked up a couple of Chouffe glasses, a big bottle of the Chouffe Bok and a McChouffe statue. A Chouffe statue was a must-get if I was going to make the trip out to Achouffe so now I only had to figure out how I was going to get it home!

After loading up the car, we took a walk around the countryside to ensure our sobriety and just take in the "sights"

After, we drove the 20 minutes to La Roche-en-Ardenne and checked into our campground located on the banks of the winding river Ourthe.

It was a fair hike into town and it was late in the afternoon. The sidewalks roll up early in La Roche and we missed visiting the famous medieval castle in the heart of the village. We found a great beer store open so we went in there and bought some beers from around the region, including beers from the La Rulles, Saint Monon and Sainte Helene breweries. Then we hit the local Delhaize supermarket to load up on supplies for the evening and next morning.

While it was not rainy that night, the ground was so waterlogged from previous days rains that we opted not to pitch the tent and decided to sleep in the car. We drank some beer, feasted on bread, cheese and pate and turned in early. All in all, not a bad day in the country. Turning in early worked out since we were going to be getting up early for a three hour drive to a true beer mecca...the abbey at Westvleteren.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Session #21: What's Your Favorite?

This month's edition of The Session is being hosted by Matt over at A World of Brews.

The theme is "What is Your Favorite Beer and Why?"

Matt quickly follows the title of his theme with this comment: "Before you say I don't have a favorite beer or how do I pick just one, I say BS everyone has a favorite. "

Well, let me trump your BS with a bigger BS! It's BS that everyone has to have a favorite beer!

How would you determine that anyway? The beer you've been drinking the longest? The beer that you buy most often? The beer that you think tastes the best? The breadth of beer is too vast for that. How can I compare a great lager with a great Flemish red? How would I pick the best one? And why should I?

The title of Matt's blog says it all. "A World of Brews" It would be virtually impossible to select my favorite beer out of all the thousands of beers to choose from. So much of my preference depends on my mood, the season or what's for dinner. So I will choose a beer but don't mistake this for my absolute favorite beer.

I picked Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille. It's not the best beer I've ever had but if you forced me to make a list of my favorites, this one would probably make the top 25. And since I had a bottle that had been in my cellar exactly four years, it seemed like an appropriate choice.

This beer is one of the best Kriek lambic beers I've ever tried. It's got just the right balance of brett funk and cherry sourness and while it delivers a significant "pucker factor", it's still quite refreshing and surprisingly drinkable.

It pours the color of cherry wood with a frothy pink head. The head on this aged bottle is nowhere near as big as the fresh sample I tried. But the aroma is still full of amazing sour cherry, barnyard funk and just a hint of wheaty sweetness.

The flavors have blended a bit over time and sometimes the funk and the sourness seem to be one in the same. The barnyard flavors actually seem a bit muted but the sourness form the cherries is there and builds as your drink it and as the beer warms. It's earthy and the body seems thinner than before but still retains a very champagne-like mouthfeel. The tart cherry lingers long past the finish and into the aftertaste.

At four years, this beer is developing nicely and it's status as one of my favorites is certainly cemented! If you like a sour, traditional but drinkable Kriek lambic, this is one you look for.

Brouwerij Oud Beersel

Check out more contributions of The Session over at A World of Brews. I'll post the exact link once Matt does...
(edit: The link to all contributions to The Session are now here.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Coaster: De Koninck

I was in Antwerp in early October which put me there right in the middle of their "Elephant Parade", a time when the city is decorated with elephant statues painted by local businesses and artists. The elephants are then auctioned off at the end of the parade to help preserve the endangered Asian Elephant.

De Koninck commemorated the event of their coasters, each one showing various elephants from around town. This is one of them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Out of the Cellar: Saison Dupont

Brewer: Brasserie Dupont
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5%
Date Cellared: July 2004
Date Poured: November 2008

In July 2004, Georgia officially raised the 6% ABV limit on beer to 14% ABV. Soon after, I bought this 750ml bottle of Saison Dupont. Yes, even this beer of modest strength was kept from the shelves under the old Georgia law. I didn't mean to keep it quite this long but I thought it was about time I cracked it open after more than four years in the cellar.

Deep hazy orange with a voluminous snow white head. Big chunky lace on the glass and lots of sediment settles at the bottom of the glass. Lots of citrus in the nose. Lemon and orange rind, some understated coriander.

Body has thinned out a bit. Bitterness present throughout, a sweet spiciness but muted from when fresh. Some lemony and orange rind citrus. Lightly earthy and yeasty. No longer crisp, the body has softened. Sweet spice in the finish.

Overall, this beer held up very well. Did it improve? Not really. Based on this bottle and other experiences, I'd keep this beer up to 18 months but no longer.

Brasserie Dupont

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tasting Notes: Avery Ale to the Chief!

Brewery: Avery Brewing
Style: Double IPA
ABV: 8.75%

Date Poured: November 2008

It's Election Day and in honor of the spirit of democracy, we'll crack open a bottle of Avery's Ale to the Chief! What is Ale to the Chief! ? It's described as a "Presidential" (in lieu of "Imperial") Pale Ale brewed to celebrate Inauguration Day...January 20th, 2009.

The bottle reads as follows:

We the Brewers of Avery Brewing Company, in order to form a more perfect ale, require new leadership that can liberate us from our quagmires in foreign lands; embrace environmentally sound energy alternatives to imported oil; heal our ailing health care system; free us from tyrannical debt and resurrect the collapsing dollar. We hereby pledge to provide him with an ample amount of our Presidential Pale Ale to support in the struggle for the aforementioned goals! Hail to the New Chief!

Obviously, the brewers at Avery are not fans of President George W. Bush! On to the beer!

Pours a lovely clear mahogany with a thin but lingering khaki head. Big citrusy hops in the nose and rich caramel malt.

Citrusy hops in the mouth, herbal hops too. Grapefruit and tangerine from the hops but very malty too. Lots of rich caramel malt with just a hint of fruitiness. Well balanced but clearlymore malt forward overall. Thick, sticky finish, blurring the lines between "Presidential" IPA and a hoppy barleywine. Big full body. Very tasty ale and very smooth. The nearly 9% ABV sneaks up on you so be careful. It hit me with quite a buzz by the time I finished the bomber!

Good "Presidential" Pale Ale. Pick one up to celebrate your civic duty. And if you are reading this from the US today, go out and vote!

Avery Brewing Company

Monday, November 3, 2008

Coaster: Brugse Bok

A new beer from Brouwerij De Halve Maan that I was able to sample at Cambrinus in Brugge.

"The Only Original Bock Beer from Brugge"