Can’t Find a Good Mixer for your Cocktail?: Try Beer

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My second day in Madison for craft week started out at a wine bar, the kind of place that I don’t usually go. But when facing the decision of “new exciting beer,” or “interesting event,” I chose interesting event this time. It was a beer cocktail tasting. I was delighted with what I found out last night at Barriques.

The man running the show was great. I asked what got him into making beer cocktails – or just doing some flat out crazy experiments. He said he had been in the liquor business in one way or another for a long time – and eventually just got sick of using Sprite as a mixer.  I’m going to go through some of the recipes and let you know what I thought.

Disclaimers….

1. If you think beer by itself is subject to personal taste – beer cocktails are even more so. I just want to make it known that all of these are good for whoever’s taste they might fancy, even if I didn’t like them.

2. I take no credit for these bomb ass recipes.

3. The recipes here are all made to use one bottle of beer (12 oz) and serve two after shaking.

Cocktail one was Per. Fect. For. Summer. If you’re not a fan of something like Summer Shandy – this might be a little sweet for you, but don’t worry, they added bourbon. This one is called the Strip and Go Bourbon. Yes, it’s based on the fancy college drink Strip and Go Naked. This one uses a bottle of Bell’s Oberon, a great wheaty beer that always shows up just in time for summer. Mix two ounces of bourbon, four ounces of lemonade, and touch of mint – then shake it up! This was a lot of people’s favorites, I think because the flavors are really familiar. As a non- super fan of lemonade beer, I still liked it because with the right bourbon, and a little mint, you can really take the edge off too much sweetness. This would also be great for people who don’t really like beer our bourbon at all – it’s magical.

The next one was the 7 Iron. It gets its name because if you drink too much too fast, apparently you feel like you got hit in the head with a 7 Iron.  This is made with New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale, one ounce of Yellow Chartreuse, and three ounces of pineapple juice. It’s recommended you serve it with pineapple garnish. I also really liked this one for summer. Remember, as the title indicates, I wouldn’t sit down outside, have more than one, and then try to get up too quickly – especially in warm weather.

I proceed with caution when I say that the Tommy Tequila was my favorite. This one is really for people who are always asking for more lemons and limes to squeeze into their bloody mary. This one takes a bottle of Capital Mutiny IPA, two ounces of tomato juice, and one ounce each of lime juice and tequila. Then obviously add hot sauce to your delight. If a bloody mary is your staple drink with brunch on weekends, or what you drink on a tired morning – I would recommend it. It has a nice kick a traditional bloody mary doesn’t. My only (personal) criticism should be obvious if you’ve read anything I’ve written – I could have used a hoppier, spicier IPA.

The next one is for everyone who enjoys a good smokey beer, it was the Smokey Smokey. It’s made with O’So Night Train Porter, and one ounce of scotch. Side note on this one – if you can ever visit O’So in Plover, WI, you should. They were great friendly folks, and they are right next to a few great places to grab a bite to eat. We talked about this one for a while – you really need the right beer and the right scotch to make it taste to your liking. I would have liked scotch with a little bit more of a bite, because I felt like the smokey after tasted stayed with me for an hour afterwards.

The last one was just a Hard Root Beer Float using Sprecher’s Bootleggers Barrel Aged Hard Root Beer. This was really straight forward, just add ice cream. You really can’t dislike it. If root beer is too sweet for you – you can always try this with other nice creamy dark beers. Ice cream is amazing with almost everything.

The advice from the folks working the event was great. They said they made all of these up themselves, just make sure you stick to 3-4 ingredients max. They also encouraged everyone and said you’ve got to make what you like, and move forward without considering that what you’re making might taste terrible the first time; you’ve just got to keep plugging away. Once again, advice that’s good for mixing drinks – also seems pretty good for life. Never give up friends!

More Information on Barriques:

On the web: www.barriquesmarket.com

On Twitter: @BariiquesMadison

Things to Google Before You Go:

Dessert Wine (too many people walk into wine bars asking for this and have no idea what it is – true story)

How to Properly Cork Wine

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No Crap on Tap

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Last night I started my Madison Craft Beer week journey trying some Belgian Beer. But that wasn’t enough. I wasn’t quite satisfied yet, so I looked at the schedule for the week and saw that Karben4, a new brewery in Madison that was recommended to me by a college friend had a bunch of beers on draft at Dexter’s Pub. This place was a nice little bar complete with friendly wait staff, volleyball, cheap food prices, and a punch card for frequent pitcher purchasers.

The place was filled with some real excited hipster beer enthusiasts, and a few folks who had just finished volleyball. I hadn’t heard about Karben4 before last week – but I’ve read good reviews, so I was excited.

The first one I tried was their Undercover Session Ale. This was a gem. It was light, crisp, & great for summer, but has enough complexities in the taste to satisfy a craft beer lover. This is one I appreciated because I expected it to be totally generic based on how it looked, but it was sweet with a hoppy edge to make for a subtle, but really pretty creative flavor. You can also toss one of these at your Miller Light friends, and they just might like it and start getting their life back on track. Moral of the story: don’t judge a book by it’s cover – just because you can see through it, doesn’t mean it’s terrible.

Next – because I’d been missing them all night, I tried SamuRye Pale Ale. This was a little heavy for the flavor, and I wouldn’t recommend having it with your food – especially if you’re eating carbs. I will say the flavor is nice – citrus hops and ryes are a good pair that these guys put together really well. I would really recommend this highly for someone who is starting to like pale ales and is a wannabe imperial IPA drinker. My taste buds wanted more hops – but I also wouldn’t run around giving it to my non beer loving pals.

This is about the time we started getting a little hungry and naturally ordered a soft pretzel and asked the bartender to give us his favorite mustard with it. It was a really good balance of tangy and spicy – and wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet. The pretzel was also nice, chewy & warm. This one seriously hit the spot.

We had the chance to grab one more before we went – it was the Block Party Amber Ale. This one was popular in pitchers with the folks around us coming in from playing volleyball – and I found out why. The Amber Ale was full flavored milky, caramelly, hoppy goodness. Words of warning – drink this one slowly, and don’t give in to peer pressure and chug it, ever. You’ll want to enjoy the flavor, and let it settle in your stomach before you give it too much love.

I wish I had the time to try more – but overall if these guys know how to do anything, they can balance a lot of ingredients in their beer to make a solid flavor whether it’s strong or subtle – their beer is artistic, and I’m excited to try more of it.

More Information on the place & the beer:

Karben4’s Beer: http://karben4.com/beers/

Karben4 on Twitter: @Karben4

Dexter’s Pub: http://www.dexterspubmadison.com/

Dexter’s Pub on Twitter: @DextersMadison

Fun Things to Google before you go (to either or both places):

How to dress like a hipster

Carbon Four Bonds

Lambic Heaven (even if you think you don’t think you like it)

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Last night I started my fun at Madison Craft Beer week at an event that was a little out of my element: a Belgian Beer Tasting. First off, I know a lot more about American breweries than anything else. Second, I’ve been guilty of writing of Belgian beer as either too fruity, or too filling. I had the opportunity to try some great Lambic, and learn a little about just how it’s brewed, and why the environment is so important.

The event was at Brasserie V, where it’s routine to have a lot of good European beer with the cheese and food to match. Not only did we get to try five beers, we got to heard about the beer, the place they were brewed, and ask a lot of questions about it. They guy in the picture above is Jordan, he was our “tour guide” for our time at Brasserie V – and he has a bottle of the last beer we drank. If you have the opportunity to ask your bartenders or folks from brewing companies any questions at all, you should – you might learn something really valuable.

We started with Timmerman’s Blanche Lambicus. It’s a simple, straight forward Lambic on purpose. It’s fruity, tart, sparkly, and light enough to go down easy. My first thoughts when I drank it were about all the different kinds of cheese it would taste great with – but then again, that’s just me. This was a straight forward Lambic, but it wasn’t what folks generally think of. A lot of times we think of fruity red beers that fill you up as if you’ve just eaten a whole meal – this isn’t that. In fact, a lot of those red beers we know are just really “Lambic style.” Lambic has been around long enough that it really needs to be brewed in certain places in Belgium in the right river valley that has just the right microorganisms in the environment – and barrels with just the right character to make sure it ages just right.

The next great beer we tried was the Bourgogne de Flanders, also from Timmerman’s. This is a Lambic infusion. It’s a nice, smooth Belgian Brown from a wine cask infused with unsweetened Lambic. It’s light and smooth with just enough sweetness that comes from the light appley & pear flavors. It’s a great new take on a Lambic, and this beer is one of the first to try it. Getting creative with Lambic is exciting because Belgium has law about what you have to put in your beer. In Lambic’s case, it’s 30% wheat malt. When folks think about beer laws – they usually think of Germany, but they are everywhere.

The next three beers we tried were from Malheur. We tried the 10% ABV Malheur 10 that is flavorful & creamy, but at a weight you can tolerate. It’s strong, but it really taste like it – just watch out if you drink it too fast. This beer would be a really nice addition to fruit or a nice summer salad in book. It’s strong enough that having some crunchy fruits and vegetables to offset it would be great – and it would really complement the peachy taste.

If you like strong beer, and still can’t handle any fruit or sweetness in your drink, the Mahleur 12 may be the last to convince you. Yes, I said 12. This one is dark, and the fruit flavors are closer to that of brown fruits and dried fruits. It’s still nice and creamy – and Brasserie V usually carries it in bottles.

The last beer was exciting – and not easy to find, so needless to say we didn’t get a lot of it. The Mahleur Brut Reserve is a nice beer that is fermented with champagne yeast. So this is nice bubbly, but not as sweet as you might think – and it still tastes like beer. All I have to say, is just try it if you can. If you’re at a bar that serves a good range of Belgian beer, ask about it. It’s a creative brew with a straightforward flavor hard not to like.

For a person from Milwaukee who worked with a lot of foreign beer – I was curious to see what Jordan liked right here in Wisconsin. His two favorite breweries here are Central Waters in Amherst & New Glarus… in New Glarus. He also mentioned he thinks that Central Waters Bourbon Barrel beer. So from someone who does this for a living – those spots are worth a trip.

The folks at Brasserie V were great. Jordan tolerated a lot of questions – and the regular staff there was quick to make more recommendations based on what we said we liked. To the Lambic and fruit beer haters of the world – I understand you, but it’s time for you to expand your palette, and go on a Lambic adventure.

The crowd was also amazing. My personal favorite new friend was one of the folks who works at Sweet Mullets Brewing company where they do everything from make completely hop free beer to use jalapenos in their brewing process. We talked about beer but also about her visits to national parks and pre-retirement career where she worked for NASA. If you can come out to Madison & you haven’t yet – get here. So far the experience is totally worth it on every level from the actual beer – to the conversation.

More information on the Location:

Brasserie V: @BrasserieV on twitter, & www.brasseriev.com to find them on the web

Other Breweries You Read About:

Sweet Mullets: www.sweetmulletsbrewing.com

New Glarus: www.newglarusbrewing.com

Central Waters: www.centralwaters.com

Things to Google before you go:

Brewing laws in Belgium

Aged Beer

Languages of Belgium

European Cheese

The Best Thing You Will Ever Do on a Saturday Morning

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Half Acre Brewery is a great place to grab a tour for those who like to wake up for a Saturday morning adventure. I am not a morning person – but I was really proud of myself when I woke up early enough to pick up a very necessary bagel and coffee before making an hour drive into Chicago to get in line for a chance to join the Half Acre Brewery tour. I knew that if I wasn’t in line in time to be included in the lucky 60 people allowed on the tour at 11am – I could still enjoy the tap room (and so can you if you don’t do well with mornings).

When the line starts getting long – a nice young man with nice snug jeans will come out and count the people who will be able to get in, let you know where the cut off is, and tell everyone else that the tap room will be open. My boyfriend and I were behind the cut off, and too tired to be heartbroken. At 11am they opened the doors and started letting people in. Somehow by the wonders of nature we were the last two people let into the tour, even though earlier we might have left. Half Acre Brewery tours prove that miracles can happen to anyone.

First off – you’re going to get three pints of solidly great beer for 10 dollars on this tour, plus the glass you get to bring home. This is by far – the most for your money in dollars per ounce that you’re going to get on a beer tour (that you randomly attend without any pre-arranged membership, etc.) – especially in a big city. I’m going to tell you what I filled my pint glass with.

I started with the Pony Pilsner. This was great. It was a full flavored bitter beer that has a really fresh, crisp ending to it. I wouldn’t recommend it right away to a beginning beer drinker because it might be a bit much, but would recommend it to folks looking for a good alternative to a filling fruity wheat beer over the summer. This is has a fresh enough taste that it works for the summer, while still satisfying the bitter beer lover.

The Akari Shogun English Brown was my second beer & is great because it’s really, really smooth. It’s also right in the middle of the bitter – sweet scale and a solid combination of nutty and juicy. The flavor is a little overwhelming at first, but it’s quick to get used to and I would have a hard time not recommending it to anyone.

Last, I had the Ambrosia, a great wheat beer. A lot of wheat beers that folks start making closer to summer either taste like Lambic or Lemonade and could replace an entire meal at the rate they expand in your stomach. This is brewed with oranges & hibiscus – and has a nice malty finish. This one is pretty medium weight – with a really creative and well balanced flavor that you just have to try.

Also available that day was Half Acre’s staple, Daisy Cutter Pale Ale. It’s great pale ale. The situation is that I didn’t have it… that day, so I didn’t really write down anything about how I think it tastes. Honestly, I have it at least once every time I am in the Chicago area so you should just try it. Per the name, it is obviously a hoppy beer with a tiny floral hint. Just trust me and have some – you basically have to.

You also should take sometime to walk around in this place and look at all of the characters on the tanks, and the stickers on the wall. You’ll heard someone yell when it’s time for you to go – but these folks aren’t just good brewers, they’re fun characters – so take some time to look around, and even pop over to the tap room afterwards if you have enough space left in your stomach.

On a scale from “I hate everything on Saturday mornings,” to “I wake up with the sun and everything before noon is wonderful,” this is totally a 9 on the “worth it” scale in my book. These folks are energetic, happy to have you, and they know their shit. The only thing I would say is that you need to remember to eat beforehand, because otherwise you’ll be drunk during the tour, and you’ll start having conversations when someone is trying to teach you about beer. You really should listen to these guys – they’re smart, and even a little funny.

Things to Google before you go: (some of these are dictated by the characters on the tanks – have fun!)

New season of Arrested Development

Devil’s Half Acre

Why cans are better than bottles

(Project) Narwhal

Follow them on Twitter:

@halfacrebeer

More info on the beer:

http://halfacrebeer.com/beer/

The Best Salad I’ve Ever Had

I logged onto Word Press about a month ago with the full intention of blogging about the things I love the most: cheese, beer, Wisconsin, politics, and music. In the middle of the holidays with all of the family responsibilities and catching up with all of friends post – campaign: I missed out on the blogging experience.

Today, I’m coming out of my slump, and I owe it all to Christian’s Bistro in Plover, Wisconsin, where my family celebrated my sister’s upcoming 23rd birthday. Any good Midwesterner knows that the best food is fresh (I am lucky enough to have grown up with a huge garden in my backyard). Christian’s Bistro stays true to that Midwest value: good, fresh food.

I had the best salad ever today. I don’t like salad, and I loved this. It was a Grilled Asparagus Salad with Bleu Cheese, Asparagus, Spinach, and some of the best Bacon I’ve tasted: all topped with fresh pepper. It was the perfect blend of healthy fresh vegetables  and tasty cheese & bacon all on the same plate. If you’re in central Wisconsin and need to stop to eat – I guarantee this place will get you out of your winter blogging slump too!

You can take your own look at the menu here: http://www.christiansbistro.com/ – also make sure to follow @ChefChristian1 on Twitter for some great local food updates.

A next great stop is to go right next door to the O’So Brewing Company. One of my favorites on their menu is the O’s Rusty Red, and it went great with my meal today. Check out the rest of their amazing Wisconsin Beer list here: http://osobrewing.com/ourbeer.php

If you support local food, local business, and amazing meals – stop by both of these places. You won’t be disappointed.