Monthly Archives: July 2011

Beer tasting at Café d’Alsace

Gianni from Café d’Alsace was kind enough to invite some folks from the neighborhood for an informal tasting today led by Michael from Union Beer.

First up was Thornbridge Brewery's Kipling, a South Pacific Pale Ale clocking in at 5.2%.

You can see the golden color popping in the glass.  Even with 3 hop additions, it was clean and light on its feet, with lots of fruity notes, particularly mango and melon.  The brewery manager is a Kiwi, so maybe that’s where the South Pacific style term is coming from?  This was my first introduction to Thornbridge Hall, which started in 2004, in Derbyshire, England.  Seems like they’re doing some pretty cool stuff.  According to their website, they use 18 varieties of malt and around 60 varieties of hops from all over the world.  I’d like to get my hands on their Jaipur, an IPA.

Next was Sinebrychoff's Porter, 7.2% abv.

It certainly hasn’t been porter weather recently, but unlike most porters, this is fermented using ale yeast, giving it more fruity aromas.  The smell of this beer reminded me of a barley wine.  Lots of malt and coffee sweetness upfront, but a bone dry finish.  The porter tradition in Finland dates back to the 1860s, and was the most common style until Prohibition.  The current recipe has remained unchanged since 1957.  Several months from now, I’d like to remember this recipe I came across on their website:

Ice Fisherman’s Porter Toddy
(about 6 servings)

5 cinnamon strips,
5 complete ginger roots,
2.5 dl water 120 g honey,
1 bottle Sinebrychoff’s Porter,
1 bottle KOFF Christmas Beer.
Blend and cook the water, honey and spices.
Pour the broth through a strainer.
Warm the beer in a kettle without bringing to a boil. Add the spice broth to the beer blend.
Check the sweetness and add honey to taste.
You can make a dessert that will warm your insides by mixing a drink with only Sinebrychoff’s Porter and the spice broth.
Serve with whipped cream in a heat-resistant glass or mug.

Nils Oscar Barley Wine, 9.5% abv.

My favorite of the lineup, this beer had lots of brooding fruit and reminded me of an Oloroso Sherry.  Apparently, it’s Sweden’s leading craft brewery and this beer is named after the owner’s wandering, story-telling uncle.

The Bruery's Mischief was beer #4. A Belgian-style strong golden ale (think Duvel), clocking in at 8.5%.

Dry-hopped with West Coast hops, this beer had tons of pine and grapefruit notes.  I came across this delicious-sounding recipe on their website:

Mischiefelada

8 oz Mischief
Juice of 1 lime
1 lime peel
3 large cubes watermelon (cut about 1 or 2 inches wide)
1/2-1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Tapatio)
6 cilantro leaves (more if you LOVE cilantro)
Salt and Pepper

Muddle the lime juice, watermelon, hot sauce, and cilantro in the bottom of the glass. Add the beer. Squeeze the lime peel and pop in the glass. Top off with salt and pepper, and garnish with cilantro. Drink up!

-Recipe by Claire Thomas – thekitchykitchen.com

Bruery's Saison Rue, a farmhouse style, also at 8.5%. Josh from Kaia, in the background.

Lot to be said about the flavors and aromas of this beer: earthy, spicy, graphite, sage, biscuit, citrus.  I guess the Rue family had no choice to start a brewery.  You can find them in the unfortunately-named town of Placentia, CA.

Best name of the day - Beer Geek Breakfast - an oat and coffee stout from Mikkeller in Denmark, 7.5% abv.

According to their website, Mikkeller launched 76 new beers in 2010 alone (!).  Beer geek breakfast reminded me in the best way of the cold brew coffee I’ve been enjoying at home since the start of summer.

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Australia’s most famous soil

A wine trip to Australia wouldn’t be complete without snapping a few photos of the terra rossa soil found in Coonawarra, part of the Limestone Coast.

The thin band of terra rossa sits on limestone. The red color comes from iron impurities in the limestone, which have oxidized, and have turned reddish brown.

Most of Australia’s great Cabernet Sauvignons are produced in this region.  Overall production in the region is 90% red.  All of the early vineyards were planted on this famous red soil, but the region has since expanded a bit.

The soil is friable, well-drained, and imparts special characteristics to the reds planted in it. While Shiraz is king in most of Australia, there are 3 times more Cab vines planted here.

The guys from Majella took us to see the soil after our memorable breakfast.  Our other favorite producers from the region: Parker, Wynns, Leconfield and Penley Estates.

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Summer Chenin Madness

Chris got his hands on some early 90s Coulee de Serrant, and we were all happy to come together for the “vineyard of exception”.  Arguably the best expression of Chenin Blanc, Coulee de Serrant is a monopole (vineyard with a single owner) biodynamically farmed by Nicholas Joly.  Just over 14 acres, the vineyard boasts vines with more than 80 years of age.  Steep slopes, thin schist soil, grapes harvested by horse and by hand – all the makings of a special place in the Loire Valley (and beyond).

For our evening of Chenins, we ended up with 6 wines.  We saved the Joly for flight 2.

Getting down to business.

Wine 1 in flight 1 garnered these descriptions: baked caramel, toffee, crab apple, stony, smoky, higher-than-expected acidity, touch of matchstick on palate, spicy a la horseradish and white pepper.

Chamboureau Cuvee d'Avant Savennieres 2004. 14% abv.

Wine 2 from flight 1: funky peaches, wet wool, dried apricots, toasted marshmallow, textbook lanolin texture.

Huet Le Haut-Lieu. 2002. 12% abv.

Wine 3 from flight 1: clean mushrooms, lemon head candies, just picked apples, floral, beeswax, pineapple, smoky, cotton candy, bright and lively with a long finish.

Jacky Blot Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups "Les Dix Arpents" Montlouis Sur Loire. 2009. Forgot to write down abv. 12 something is my guess.

Time for round 2.  Chris had decanted the 91 and the 93 Coulee 24 hours in advance of our tasting.  I brought the current release, the ’07, and it was decanted for just a few hours prior to round 2.  I announced it during the tasting, and no one seemed impressed, but for the record, I guessed the vintages correctly during round 2.

From left to right, the '93, '91 and '07 Coulee de Serrant. Liquid gold.

A shot of the labels:

The aromas and flavors of these ranged from celery soda to baked apple, but there was a recognizable line throughout.

By this time we were getting hungry.

The first course was corn soup with bacon and chives. The sweetness of the corn played nicely with the fruitiness of the wines.

Chris adapted course 2 to the wines as well.

The plan was to grill polenta, along with other goodies. I suggested ring molds, to keep up appearances.

I was on summer truffle detail. Just the right amount of funk for the line-up of wines.

Plating the main course:

Chris had come across some pine honey. Sweet, with the perfect amount of herbaceousness.

Two of our guests had to leave before the main course was served.

Monster serving of seared scallops, grilled polenta and scallions, summer truffles and pine honey.

As I was finishing up this post, an email came through from Chris, with the subject “coulee redux”:

So I just got home from work.  Exactly one week has passed since I decanted the 91 and 93.  I squirreled a small amount from the tasting, for purely scientific purposes mind you, and have just tasted through the lot of them.  All three are dead as a doornail.  Without exception all three wines showed best at 24 to 48 hour.  The evolution went from closed up upon opening to the shapeshifting chameleon that we all met at the tasting.  Then on to a vegetal phase and finally to very a rich ripe golden fruit phase.  Sorry for any bullshitty language.  Interesting, they are still not quite oxidized.  And for the ringer, I can’t resist, the cuvee d`avant is still showing fantastically and with that I am going to go attend to the last of it.

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Shoots flaming balls and reports

Hope you all had a great holiday.  Or, more specifically, I hope you drank and ate well, and as a friend of ours says, “made some things go pow”.

The end of June marks an exciting new chapter for A Thirsty Spirit.  See hint in the photograph below.  I hope you’ll stay tuned.

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