January 24, 2009

Belated praises to KB and Charles & Limeys

This is the post where I belatedly, but with no less enthusiasm, get around to praising the beer and dish pairings held nearly a fortnight ago at Charles and Limeys. Kudos to KB for his fine selection of beer. My favorite of the evening was the Fort Collins Chocolate Stout. My most surprising taste was the Kasteel Rouge. I was fondly shocked to note I enjoyed the beer when I was surely dead set against any brew made with cherries as a part.

For those of you unfortuante enough to miss out on this, hopefully, first of many experiences, allow me to recap in some small way:

Open to Charles and Limeys lounge wherein a spread of appetizers featuring cheeses, meats, hummus and pita crakers was accompanied by small talk and Three Floyd's Pride and Joy. The beer: light and hoppy, the conversation: pleasant.

Segue to the dining room where the opening course, for myself, consisted of a cheese soup made with beer. The accompaniment: Erdinger's Hefeweizen. The soup was excellent with a slight bitter taste on the back end. The beer was a pleasant wheat with solid German backing without all the crazy Belgian yeastiness. (Nyah nyah, Belgianites!)

The main course was a choice of roast beef with yorkshire pudding and mixed vegetables or battered cod and chips. The paired brew was Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA. The food was tasty albeit not spectacular. (Admittedly we have been spoiled by their steaks and ostrich offerings). The Two Brothers is a good, if slightly less hoppy than a standard, IPA. Our table personally would have swapped this pairing with, perhaps, the Erdinger opting for something less overwhelming in beverage so as to more fully enjoy the entree. An alternative of a nice American Amber or English bitter was also suggested during this course.

Dessert, of which I am usually a pass, was freaking awesome. A trio of chocolatey delights was presented to each participant: a chocolate sin cake, a chocolate stout pudding and the chocolate pyramid. They were all very, very good but the pyramid, based off the classical Egyptian style as opposed to any Meso-American variety, was out of sight. These tasties however were paired with beers to rival their flavors: Fort Collins Double Chocolate Stout and Kasteel's Rouge. The stout had a plesantly strong chocolate flavored the combined well with the chocolate desserts and the Kasteel had a light style with very present cherry taste providing a well needed complement to all the chocolate.

As the meal wound down and time crept closer towards parting, we topped the evening off with a sampling of a bourbon barrel stout. This is a style that is creeping well into its own wherein a strong stout is aged in former bourbon barrels imparting that smokey whiskey goodness I have never been able to get my head around. Needless to say, a beer that can withstand aging in a bourbon barrel needs itself be quite strong and that throaty alcoholic burn completes the style marking it as Bourbon's close relative in spirit at least.

Once again, kudos to Kevin for the beer choices and Peter for the chef pairings and Charles and Limeys for the venue and everyone who came for supporting the beer culture of Springfield. KB deserves our support for this and future endeavors.

January 14, 2009

Blast at Abita Brewery


Luckily it looks like it was just one vat that overpressurized during cleaning, and no one was hurt. Abita make a very high quality amber along with its signature Turbodog (among others). Based out of Louisiana, its beers flow freely and abundantly on Bourbon Street. That's where I first encountered the Amber. I believe I drunkenly texted Gish as to its quality ("this is bleeping good stuff!!")
I hope they get back and running quickly. I know their brew is available on tap at Buffalo Wild Wings and I want to say Barrelhead, or pick up a 6'er, you won't be disappointed.

January 8, 2009

The High Life

Springfield will be having, by all rights, what appears to be a very tasty event this Sunday, January 11th. (Hat tip to KB)

Mrs. Glatz, writing for the Illinois Times, has a very nice article on the upcoming event. Diatribe and I are both familiar with her good works and fine sensibility of wonderful tastes. She knows of what she writes.


KB spilled the beans on the brews in the comments so I am going to reproduce it here:

Three Floyds Pride & Joy - A mild ale out of Munster, IN.
Erdinger Hefe - A wheat from Erding, Germany.
Two Brothers Heavy Handed - An india pale ale out of Warrenville, IL.
Fort Collins Chocolate Stout - Reverse engineer that name. It is from Colorado.
Kasteel Rouge - A cherry quadrupel from Castle Brewery in Van Honsebrouck, Belgium.
Walter Payton's Roundhouse Bourbon Barrel Stout - Another obvious name. Walter Payton's Roundhouse can be found in Aurora,IL.

That list makes me feel like Flying Pig* wanting to say 'Wow. What a line up.'

Sounds like a good time and having been to Charles & Limeys, I imagine the food will be quite nice as well. So call to make reservations for this excellent event because we will only have quality beer events if we support them.

* = Kids in the Hall sketch

January 3, 2009

Ross Isaac

The nice thing about going to Ross Isaac without a reservation on a Saturday night is that the bar is an awfully pleasant place to wait. For the uninitiated, Ross Isaac is the restaurant that replaced the old New England Lobster House on MacArthur Blvd next to Baskin Robbins. It is an upscale chef-driven restaurant which tends to have quite a lot of foods you have had in formats you might not have. I am guessing they call it 'contemporary cuisine' but I don't really understand the term well enough. It might be generalized to be similar to Pao, Jimmy Ohs and Indigo and I do mean generalized. I do not cut any of these restaurants any slack when it comes to having a quality beer selection. They invariably have a quality wine cellar but some half-ass it when it comes to beer. It stems from this lack of a Springfield beer culture.

I am happy to say Ross Isaac passes muster and I rate them well:

Ross Isaac: Excellent

Ross Isaac covers the breadth well with your typical mass market beers as well as imports like Becks, Becks Dark and Negra Modelo. However they have a perfectly suitable complement of American craft brewers (plus a more uncommon choice) starting off with one of my favorites.

Rogue Dead Guy (12 oz as opposed to the bombers [22 oz.] some others carry)
Boulevard Pale Ale (Boulevard, the Kansas City brewer. Their pale is akin to an SNPA)
Boulevard Stout (A quality stout for your fuller flavored beef and/or spicy dishes)
Boulevard Wheat (I have trouble telling the diff between wheats. Someone else should)
Arcadia Nut Brown Ale (Arcadia from Battle Creek, MI. Like, no one else carries it.)
Arcadia India Pale Ale (In lieu of the Whitsun, I believe, the barkeep said.)

These craft brew choices really fill in the basic set of the Ales every restaurant should carry. One choice each of: Pale Ale, Stout, Wheat Ale, India Pale Ale and a Brown Ale. This paired with their mass market and import lagers really provides choice for all. So, once again, Good selection, Ross Isaac and owner.

Ross Isaac: Excellent

Drinking Regionally

Drinking Regionally is a mantra I have tried to live by. It is the mantra that really got me started down the path of loving craft beer. Though it didn't actually start with beer for me. It started with wine when I decided (liking sweeter wines) that I'd much rather support my Illinois wineries (Alto Vineyards and its kin) by buying their quality locally produced wines over imported Muscats, Rieslings and their analogs. The Illinois State Fair provided a useful venue in its tasting tent where I could try before buying and determine my needs fairly easily.

I realized that liking beer as much as I did that I could do the same with it. Why stick with mass-marketed beers like Michelob Amber Bock or imports like Smithwicks, Bass and Harp? Certainly some suitable Illinois brewery was produucing beers in-state that I could enjoy just as well. Some simple searching had me purchase one of my first regional beers:

Goose Island Honkers Ale

Goose Island describes Honkers Ale as 'a smooth, drinkable English Bitter for those looking for more from their beer'. I really found this to be true when compared to the Bass & Harp I had been drinking. What I had been missing was 'more', just more of everything: malt, hops, taste and body.

Honkers Ale and Goose Island provided me a taste of the better life and I will always appreciate them for that. Goose Island does a more than acceptable job with its beers and its close proximity to Springfield and partial ownership under Anheuser-Busch has helped to ensure Honkers Ale, 312 Wheat and its IPA are often availale at your local eateries and drinkeries.

I have mostly moved on to more favored Pales, IPAs and, if i am in the mood, Wheats. I do however to pick up Goose Islands seasonals and am very happy with the knowledge that Honkers is a taste I like and can find often.

If you haven't tried a Honkers out in the wild but can enjoy a Pale Ale then I suggest you pick one up. If you like a Blue Moon or Shock Top Wheat then give 312 a try. It is quite good even with the abominable fruit garnish. If you have a bit more breadth of taste or sense of adventure then their Winter seasonal Mild Winter Ale is quite good and their Kilgubbin Irish Ale which is due soon is quite tasty.

Just remember Goose Island is an Illinois brewery and is worth a try to see what your fellow citizen produces. Goose Island isn't your only option either. Two Brothers and Walter Paytons Roundhouse also have beer available in Springfield for purchase.

Updates to Organic Beers

Since I was just at Tuck on New Year's Day, I thought I'd update their organic choices since I discovered they had far more than I remembered.

I am not going to be able to list all the one-offs by the various breweries but I believe from here on out we'll find them more numerous as a number of smaller breweries will begin to put out one or more certified organic brews. On those coat-tails, you will also begin to see the big boys put out a few organics from their lineup to cater to the growing demographic. Expect the Michelob Organic Stone Mill Pale Ale to be around sooner rather than later. SABMiller and MolsonCoors won't be too far behind.

Eel River Brewing Company

Eel River Brewing Company's website describes themselves as the first certified organic brewery in America. They brew out of Humboldt, California which makes me say 'No wonder'. I mean we all rightly or wrongly associate California with all sorts of weird non-Midwestern values like organic foods, not destroying the planet and retreats with New Age demagogues. However California has brought us some wonderful beer inventions like Microbreweries, Imperial IPAs and over-hopping beers until our eyes bleed. It just makes so much sense that they'd have America's first certified organic brewery.

Butte Creek Brewing Company

Butte Creek Brewing is another brewery out of California producing organic beers. They are located in Chico which you might know as the home of Sierra Nevada which is a mighty brewer in its own right. Butte Creek was founded in 1996 but appears to have been purchased in 2005 or so by a group called Golden West Brewing. They are apparently looking a producing a pilsner under the moniker of Blue Marble Brewing designed to appeal to a broader market which is odd since they already produce a pilsner under the Butte Creek brand.

Anyway both of these breweries have offerings at Friar Tucks and possibly other shops locally.

January 2, 2009

The year in beer


Very short article, but one thing in this article chaps my hide... Boise, Idaho has 4 brew pubs and a homebrew competition. We got squat. I thought I couldn't be more ashames to be from Illinois! (/jk...kind of)