Beer Recommendations for Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving is a perfect beer holiday. For the most part you will know ahead of time what the menu will comprise of, this is an excellent chance to pair beer with food. Fall beers are abundant this time of the year. From the moment the appetizers come out to the second the pie is sliced each opportunity should be grabbed to complement this once a year meal. When shopping for beer keep in mind how many guests will be attending the dinner.

For the most part I recommend starting out with a fairly light beer perhaps an IPA or even a Belgian beer such as Blue Moon. Don’t buy many of these beers, I suggest a one to one ratio, meaning one beer for every guest. This beer is just the starter and most likely you’ll be eating a little earlier than usual so no sense in getting tipsy too quick. Let everyone enjoy the beer and make sure you have proper glasses for the beer.

Next will be the main course. This is where you can have a little fun with your beer selection as many limited edition beers are available at this time. Try a variety of the winter beers or perhaps even a pumpkin beer to keep your guests entertained. These types of beer often lead to sipping and not mass consumption which allows everyone to enjoy the flavor of the beverage.

After everything is cleaned up your guests will probably sit for a few minutes to digest and talk. When the pies are served you should break out your secret weapon. I recommend a chocolate stout by either Sam Adams or a really nice bottle of winter stout often found in a wine bottle. Make sure you have a set of small glass as this beer is often rich and creamy. The alcohol content is also slightly higher so odds are your guests will not require a normal amount to appreciate this treat.

Following these basic rules will give you and your guests a truly great experience while you fine tune your pairing abilities. Start thinking about Christmas dinner next, it’s right around the corner.

A Beginners Guide to Pairing Beer with Food

Pairing beers with food is not as hard as it sounds. I find that beers tend to match seasons and not just foods. And accordingly the seasons typically produce certain foods. I will break down the four seasons and some foods commonly found during those seasons. Next I’ll give some recommendations for beers that go excellent with those foods. Most of my suggestions are microbrews as that’s my beer of choice.

Winter

I’ll start off the season with winter. I find most foods for the winter tend to be heavy comforting foods. On given days you might have a full turkey dinner, ham, soups, meats, pies and potatoes. Greens and salads tend not to sprout up here. For the heavy meals beer companies have been producing winter versions of beer. Most of these are dark and contain some spice to them. I recommend Flying Dog’s winter brew and also Sam Adams winter Lager. These are both excellent beers

Spring

Spring is when the flowers start blooming and the weather turns for the better. I find a lot of full meals with light ingredients such as basil spring rolls, enchiladas, some hearty salads with meats, and perhaps some sandwiches. Usually I reach for the so called “normal brew”. These are the flagship beers in a lineup for a company. Some examples are Sam Adams, Magic Hat #9, Flying Dog Amber Ale, and Dogfish Head Raisin D’ Etre. These beers tend to go nicely for this time of year.

Summer

Hot! That about sums up summer. I find a mixture of light foods and grill items like salads, burgers, dogs, steaks, and grilled vegetables. For these sizzling meals I like to pair IPA (Indian Pale Ales) such as H.I.P.A from Magic Hat and Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA. Another favorite is Harpoon IPA located out of Boston. I like the crispness of these beers.

Fall

Fall is an interesting time. Switching foods from light to heavy you finish off the season with a feast in Thanksgiving. With this mixture of foods I like to have a variety of beers. Everything from Magic Hat Blind Faith to Rouge Dead Guy Ale. Some other beers pop up here and there like pumpkin flavored brews. I suggest trying them as they are usually limited in supply.

It’s not really that hard to pair beers with food. Just stick with a few basic guidelines and you should be on your way to impressing guests in no time.

A Beginners Guide to the different Types of Beer

There are literally thousands of different breweries, concocting beers of many strengths and many tastes and many colors! There is a beer for everyone, in there somewhere, so let’s go try some.

First of all, I am British and in 1986, I received the shock of my life, when I moved to the United States of America! My first beer in this country, was a Budweiser!

I grew up in a little community where it was mandatory for young men to acquire a taste for a lean pint of bitter, by the time he was eighteen years old.

Now, my first pint of bitter, was indeed bitter! I got it down and I started to notice hairs on my chest! A good pint of bitter in Great Britain, depends upon which brewery it comes from and at which franchised drinking sstablishment you are visiting at the time.

Usually the bitter is a light golden in color and comes with all kinds of names, like Boddington, Devonshire, Cornish, Whitbread…the list goes on, depending on whicsh County in Great Britain you’re in.

As I got older, I got tired of the bitters and moved onto the ales. Ales are darker, sort of a red brown in color. I liked these beers better, because they were more palatable, they were stronger and you didn’t need to drink so many of them. They were sipping beers, as I called them. Again, ales vary from brewery to rewery.

There are many micro breweries, throughout the UK and the USA. These breweries do their best to make the best beer in the world. They compete with each other to come up with the most palatable and the most full bodied taste.

Now, back in 1986, there weren’t many micro-breweries in the USA and this leads me back to the Budweiser! Not only had I left my country of origin behind, but I had also lost a great part of my essential diet!

For some reason, whenever I try an imported beer, from the UK, it doesn’t taste as good as it tasted back in the old country! However, the US micro-brews have tasted more and more awesome in the past few years!

So now I have the best of both worlds! If I want a good draft pint, all I have to do is jump on a plane and fly to Heathrow; or simply pay less than ten bucks for a great tasting six-pack, from my local liquor store.

Guinness to me, is by far, the king of all! However, the only place in the world where a pint of Guinness tastes the best, is in Ireland itself! They say, it’s all to do with the Liffey water! Bottled or canned Guinness has no comparison to a great pint of the ‘Dark Stuff’, right on its home turf! I know this for a fact!

A few years ago, someone came up with an interesting invention called the Widget! The Widget is a piece of plastic that sits in the bottom of a beer can. When the tab is pulled and the beer is hit by the outside air, the Widget causes a reaction. You have to pour the beer into a glass fairly promptly, to see the reason behind this madness. Once the beer is sitting proudly in it’s glass, you will notice that it resembles a draft beer, with a creamy, frothy head! This is all thanks to the Widget! Hence, draft beer in a can!

Lager beers are interesting to me! They seem to taste pretty good, no matter where they are from. Lager is very clear and a light golden yellow in color. When you go into your local liquor store, or off-license, as they call it in the UK, you will notice that a lot of lagers come from places where the name is very long and hard to pronounce. This is why I personally stick to Heineken!

Most lagers are from Europe and they vary in strength. The German lagers, are the best! This brings me back to Budweiser again, because Budweiser beer, in my most humble thought processing, should be called lager! In no means does it taste like lager, but it looks like it! As do most light American beers.

As I said, in the beginning, there are thousands of different breweries in the world. and I may never get to try all of them. However, what I have tried, through trial and error, has been a joy and an experience for me!

I really think that the US beer market has been making a very strong attempt at becoming one of the world’s best resources for ale in recent years. Especially with breweries like Sam Adams from Boston winning a European Brewery Award, several years consecutively.

All that I can say is there’s a beer drinker in all of us, just find the one that’s for you’!

A Beginners Guide to Cooking with Beer

Cooking with beer can add an unexpected flavor to your food that dinner guests will enjoy. As with most alcohols, beer is typically reduced to bring out the true flavor of the beverage. Beer is often used on food that is grilled. A wildly popular idea is to grab a can of your favorite brew, open it and poke a few holes in the top. Next grab a whole chicken and rub your favorite spices on the skin. Insert the can of beer into the cavity of the chicken, top up. Place the bird on the grill standing up so the can is on the grates of the grill. This steams the bird from the inside out and adds all the yummy flavor of the beer.

Typically you don’t need expensive beer when cooking. Any old can such as Bud or Miller will do.

Another way you can use beer is as a marinade. When you make your marinade for steak or chicken simply add about a cup of beer to the mixture. Don’t get me wrong you can get fancy with your beer such as Magic Hat’s #9 which will add a subtle fruity flavor as this beer is made with apricots. Get creative and add beer to other dishes such as vegetables for pasta. I hear Guinness stout adds a beautiful flavor to dark dense cakes. In fact Guinness is in a league all its own. I’ve heard of everything from BBQ sauce to cake to stew.

I guess in the end you want to add flavor to your dish and not overpower it. Remember beer works best when it has a chance to reduce. Just imagine what warm beer tastes like and you’ll get the idea. So next time you fire up the grill and got a can of beer lying around pop the top and add it to the dish.

The Effects of Beer Consumption on your Health

It’s funny, but you don’t hear much about the good effects of beer consumption on human health. Probably, this is because there aren’t any, or if there are, they are overshadowed by the ill effects of the beverage on the health of the average person. And most of us know these, but let’s discuss them a bit…

I suppose that the effects of beer on health can be broken down into two categories: Short-term and Long-term.

I’ll start with the short term effects, although I suppose those who don’t drink will have no idea of what I’m talking about.

I think that any discussion of this kind must start with the drunkenness that comes from drinking any alcoholic beverage. While this effect is not really dangerous in and of itself, it can lead to activities that are hazardous to your health. Take the drunk who hits on the beautiful woman sitting next to the line backer from your college football team, for example. His judgment has been so impaired by the beer he has drunk that he doesn’t even realize that he has set himself up for an ass whippin’. Or, in the even worse scenario, the idiot who thinks he can drive in his impaired condition and either drives off the road and kills himself, or even more dire, runs head on into oncoming traffic and kills himself (maybe) and someone else. I would think the result of such a move would most definitely be hazardous to your health, even should you survive the crash.

It always seems that there is something that comes up while you are drunk that, with the impaired thought processes you possess at the time, seem to be totally cool, but will end in a situation that just isn’t conducive to good health. Boy, what a shame. I’m sure even more beer would be consumed if this wasn’t the case.

Then there are all those other short-term effects that many of us remember the morning after drinking large quantities of beer and almost always promise ourselves that we won’t do that to ourselves again, until the next time we are out with our friends. Don’t lie…you know you’ve done it…

I am talking about, of course, the hangover! And for some reason, beer hangovers seem to be in the top two or three on the “Oh this is a bad one!” meter. The headache, the upset stomach, and all those aches and pains in the midsection from all the puking you did the night before. And let’s not forget the dead thing that crawled into your mouth and died, as well. Let’s face it, the morning after drinking lots of beer is rarely a pleasant one. Neither is the episode in the restroom while you are hugging the porcelain god. But these are all short term effects and soon fade into memory and myth, to be forgotten again and again in the human pursuit of happiness.

Which, of course, lead to the long term effects of the tasty beverage on the human body.

First of these is the beer gut. Beer is empty calories. And most of us do not work, or exercise, enough to work off those calories…mainly because we are too busy lifting weights 12 ounces at a time. Big surprise, right? But the obesity caused by beer consumption is very real, and no laughing matter. It’s easier to put on that weight than it is to take it off.

But there is so much more…Our next topic would be the sickness imparted from prolonged drinking of any alcoholic beverage. The “disease” is called consumption. All sorts of nasty things happen to your body because your liver just decides that it has had enough. I wouldn’t suggest trying to live without your liver. It is most unhealthy. Ask a doctor if you don’t believe me.

And then, just for fun that leads us to the most dangerous side effect of beer, or alcohol in general…that is the addiction that can be caused from drinking. And remember, this is a physical addiction. This means that your body becomes so used to having alcohol inside of it, that it can no longer live without it. Well, that may be an overstatement, but if you ever go through withdrawal symptoms, believe me, you will wish you were dead.

I can’t describe the actual effect that alcohol has that makes this true, but I can promise you, it is much better to avoid this state, if at all possible. You will not enjoy it.

Of course, there are plenty of people who can function as alcoholics. For the most part. They’re not perfect, but then since no one is, I suppose that doesn’t matter. That doesn’t mean you should be in a hurry to try it, though.

While the short term effects of a night of beer drinking are relatively harmless, unless you’re stupid, and are usually gone within 24 to 36 hours, the long term effects are much more serious and take much longer to get rid of. Spare yourself this agony. Drink enough to enough to have fun, but know when it is best to quit…and Drink Responsibly!

Beer a Beginners Guide to Ale Styles

Where to start? Brown ale, porter, I.P.A., stout, bitter, mild… The list goes on.

First of all, What is ale? To me, coming from and living in Britain, ale should only be made from 4 ingredients; barley, water, hops and yeast. It should come hand pulled from a cask at cellar temperature, or from a bottle (preferably bottle conditioned.) I would not class lager as ale, especially the mass produced fizzy disco water variety, nor do I consider any of the excellent European white beers or fruit beers to be ales. They are all types of beer, but not types of ale.

Ale is broadly catagorised according to its colour and strength.
Pale ales, as the name suggests, are light in colour and body, with a hoppy bitter edge. They tend to be the weaker, refreshing, quaffing ales.

At the other extreme are the dark ales, with a rich, full bodied and nutty taste. These are generally stronger, more satisfying, winter warmer type ales. Although stout has a very dark colour it is very different from other dark ales, with a mild, bitter and creamy taste.

The brown ales are a compromise between these two ends of the ale spectrum. Providing the best of both worlds!

It is impossible to choose the best type of ale, as different ales suit different occasions. My chosen tipple will change depending on the weather or time of year, the company I am with, my mood or because of the establishment I am in, but it will always be a real ale.

Meet a Gorgeous Woman into Beer try a Lambic

Women are to lambic beers, as models are to diamonds. It’s one thing to be a beer guy, but ya ever look around for beautiful knowledgeable women who are into beer? You rarely find one who knows even the basics about beer who is gorgeous; however, there are plenty who like the strong sensitive types- the down to earth guys who are really all about beer. There needs to be a happy medium where you get the best of both worlds and in the world of beer, its lambics.

Lambic beers started out in the country, fermented and made by farmers. What distinguishes it as a true lambic is the fact is must have 30% wheat in the mash. Now, I’m not going to get into specifics, because really, women are rarely interested in that – that’s guy to guy talk. What you really need to know is fruit does especially well with wheat beers and the unison between them comes in a bottle which almost resembles a bottle of wine. The most common fruit used in them is cherries (Kreik in Flemish) or Raspberries (Framboise in French, Frambozen in Flemish) and they tend to be more hoppy with greater alcohol content.

Years ago when Brooklyn brewery operated their yearly beer fest, you paid one price for a sample glass and could try or drink anything there. It was the best way to be introduced to new styles or specific brands. By sheer observation, the lambic beer line was probably 50% women, as opposed to the other vendors which contained probably only 10% women. Certainly, with so many guys around, the competition is tough, but when you look at the numbers, your best chance to meet a woman is with a lambic in your hand. First, because it has a bright color, it tends to look like champagne, and has a very sweet aroma – need I say more?

If you want a woman to develop a palate for microbrews, I’d suggest Lindemans Framboise to start or any of their line. You can sell them on the fact the beer has plenty of associations with the “romantic country”. I don’t think I need to tell you how to work your magic. Framboise is topped with a cork and even “pops” when you open it. I might suggest you blindfold her and ask her to judge which lambic she likes best, without telling her it’s beer. There are several different types Lindemans makes which include Pomme (apple), Kreik (black cherry), Peche (peach), and Cassis (black currant). It might be a little costly; on average one bottle (the size of a wine bottle) will set you back $10, but its well worth the results.

Guide to Hosting a Wine Tasting Party

When you use lighter wines in warm weather, bold and hearty varietals in winter, a wine tasting party is appropriate at any time of the year, but during the winter holiday season, it is an excellent way to get together with friends in a comfortable setting to explore and enjoy a different experience or, at least, share some new and interesting flavors.

The Wine

The coolest thing about a wine tasting party is there is no end to the wine comparisons you might consider as you make your party unique and of special interest to your guests. Often, this is also the most challenging element of the tasting until you begin to consider the possibilities.

A simple pairing of wine and cheese, or wine and chocolate, usually provokes approval among even the most casual wine tasters.

Tastings that spark comparisons of vintage years, varietals produced within the same year, or any number of comparisons of cost or popularity, are all fair game at a wine tasting.

SWILLA Wine Tasting Party Kit is good help with plenty of details. Also, your favorite wine shop might be a strong source of information and guidance, plus there is the distinct possibility the owner of the shop is an expert who would love to do a presentation at your tasting party and, possibly, sell a few bottles of wine.

Invitations

About 12 guests are usually a comfortable group for casual wine tasting. Keep the mood light and fun. After all you are there to taste and enjoy as you discover new flavors and ways of thinking about wine, not to display any deep knowledge as a connoisseur.

A bit of careful planning, some cheerful over-the-phone or e-mail invitations, and you are well on your way to a comfortable and affordable party that might easily become the highlight of the season.

Be sure everyone understands your event is a wine tasting, not dinner nor a cocktail party. If you are not serving a full meal, be sure your guests understand this.

Choosing your Theme

A good way to get the party started is serve hors d’oeuvres and sparkling water while guests gather, then move quickly into the tasting, and finish with dessert. This works especially well when most guests are moving on to dinner at another location.

Another approach is to serve a light dinner followed by wine tasting and dessert.

An after dinner tasting of dessert wines, cookies and sweets followed by small, hot cups of coffee can be deliciously different. A few savory “frivolities” like bits of cheese or toasted nuts, mellow the sweetness of the desserts.

Arranging your Entertainment Space

A large table with comfortable chairs is ideal. If this is not possible, try to provide a comfortable chair, plus a place to put a wine glass and note pad, for each guest. Your last choice might be to have guests stand around your kitchen island.

Ask guests to make notes as they taste and share their observations after the glass; surprisingly, humor usually wins over most serious and studied considerations.

Wine tastings can be as simple or complicated as you choose. About 2 ounces of wine is an adequate taste.

Try to provide appropriate glasses for each general type of wine (examples: White, red, dessert). Baskets with cubes of plain bread and glasses of water for sipping help clear the palate between wines. Also, it is convenient to have an inconspicuous place (bucket) to discard any excess wine or rinse a glass when necessary.

Baco Noir Wines

Wine makers are constantly looking for hardy grape varietals that can produce great wines in virtually every region. Baco noir is a sturdy grape that lends itself well to some of the most demanding growing conditions. While still not as well known as its red wine counterparts merlot or pinot noir, baco noir is gaining a reputation for dependable harvests and top quality wines. Particularly suited to the Canadian wine industry, baco noir is the darling of vintners and wine drinkers alike; it is the little smoky wine that could.

Baco noir grapes

This little hybrid grape comes from the French Folle Blanche cognac grape and the Vitis Riperia grape native to North America. This blend proved hardy enough to survive the considerable challenges of growing grape vines in Canada. These vines are especially suited to growing in the Great Lakes regions of North America that are noted for having difficult heavy soil conditions and long cold winters; the bane of more delicate pinot noir grapes. Southern Ontario and Eastern Ontario, as well as Nova Scotia further a field, are providing some of the best baco noirs available.

Baco noir characteristics

Taking a few moments to notice the aromas and tastes of a typical baco noir reveal these wines wonderful characteristics. The most common notes are reminiscent of red fruits that are rich and dark – think plums, currants, and blackberries. Some baco noirs will have notes of cherry but usually not as predominant as in pinots.

Other traits include delicate aromas of cedar notes or oak. Most baco noirs are oak aged but even those that are not will have a slight oakiness. Common layered flavors include hints of chocolate and cocoa. More often than not, there will be a very slight smoky essence detected that makes one think of barbeques. Perhaps this explains the interesting observation from one Ontario wine maker who referred to baco noir as the smoky bacon wine that is perfect for perfect pizza night.

Baco noir food pairing suggestions

Baco noirs tend to have low concentrations of tannins, giving them incredible versatility when selecting dishes for pairing. All too often, a wine’s acidity will clash with tomato-based sauces or overpower the subtleties of cream sauces. But baco noir pairs beautifully with grilled meats, especially steaks and lamb, but the possibilities are endless. These wines are great with the sweet and spicy flavors of Indian curries or barbequed ribs. Heat up or order up that pizza for an impromptu weekend meal accompanied with a glass of baco noir. For an elegant ending to the meal or light entertaining baco noir matches well with a selection of aged hard cheeses (cheddar, havarti, smoked gouda) and 70 percent (or higher) dark chocolate squares.

Baco noir wines to try

Henry of Pelham in Niagara is one of Canada’s trailblazers in making Baco noir as the white wine drinkers of the 1980s shifted their tastes to reds. Baco noir grapes were easier to grow and produced quality offerings that are now staples on LCBO shelves. Their 2007 Baco Noir vintage features a slight blueberry hint but is never sweet, and it has the rich dark fruit flavors and smoky layers make this classic. Highly recommended to serve with grilled venison or other game meats.

Waupoos 2008 Baco Noir of Eastern Ontario produces a solid baco noir rich with plums and blackberries and the trademark cocoa notes. The subtle barbeque essences compliment that meat and cheese pizza or grilled hamburgers.

Sandbanks Estates Baco Noir also of Eastern Ontario features this wine as an annual favorite. The 2008 vintage stands up the test, featuring a rich deep fruit taste with plenty of blackberry flavors and some classic oaky notes. Team up with a rich cheese platter and dark chocolate; a match made in heaven.

Baco noir wines are quickly gaining a loyal following among discerning red wine drinkers looking for something with more body than a pinot noir but with enough versatility to experiment with meal pairings. As with any good wine, the ultimate enjoyment is found by sipping a glass on its own and baco noir will not disappoint. Pinot noir and merlot may soon become the runners up.

An introduction to the Bourgogne wine region of France

The Burgundy wine region of France can be found roughly halfway between Paris and the Mediterranean in the northern part of the Rhone Valley. Its dominant river is the Saône River, a tributary of the Rhone River before the Saône joins the south-flowing Rhone River at Lyon. The separated Chablis subregion can be found on the Serein River, which flows in the opposite direction from the Rhone, northwards into the Yonne and then Seine Rivers.

Subregions

There are 5 subregions in the Burgundy wine region. From north to south, they are Côté d’Auzerre (Chablis), Côté de Nuits, Côté de Beaune, Côté Chalonnaise and Mâconnais.

Most wine maps also include Beaujolais as one of the subregions of Burgundy. Although Beaujolais is technically the southernmost part of the Burgundy wine region, its wines are closer in character to the wines of the Rhone Valley region.

Terroir

All the wines of Burgundy are grown on limestone soils. However, the wines produced by each vineyard in Burgundy have unusually strong individuality. Of all the wine regions of France, Burgundy’s wines may be the most responsive to the unique combinations of grape, soil, climate, vineyard placement, and the human touch which together make up “terroir.”

Wines

The Burgundy wine region is best known for its Burgundy dry reds, which are made from Pinot noir grapes. While many other wine regions of France and other countries also produce dry reds from Pinot noir grapes, the only wines which can legally be called Burgandies come from this region.

Two other famous wines from the Burgundy region are also named for their respective subregions. Beaujolais wines are dominated by Gamay noir grapes, a cross between Pinot noir and Gouais. Chablis wines are made primarily from Chardonnay grapes, and can be found in the microregion surrounding Chablis and Auxterre.

After Chardonnay, the most popular grapes for dry whites in this region are Aligoté grapes, with roughly 1/8 the acreage of Chardonnay grapes. Aligote grapes are commonly used in the sparkling wine Crémant de Bourgogne.

The Côté de Nuits specializes in Pinot noir wines. It is particularly known for full-bodied Burgundy wines which can be aged for decades. Just a little further south, the Côté de Beaune specializes in light Chardonnays, along with lighter Burgundies which do not need to be aged for more than 5 years to bring out their character. Together, the Côté de Nuits and the Côté de Beaune make up the 2 most historically important wine subregions of Burgundy.

Getting there

The easiest way to tour the Burgundy wine region is by car. From Paris, take the A6 southeast to Beaune. The drive takes about 3 hours, and ends in the northern part of the Burgundy wine region. From there, a network of smaller roads can take you northeast to Dijon or southeast to Mâcon, the major cities which bound the Burgundy wine region.

From the south, the best way to reach the Burgundy wine region is to drive along the Rhone Valley north to Lyon, also a drive of about 3 hours. The A7 will take you from Marseilles to Lyon. From there, a short drive on the A6 will take you the rest of the way to Macon.

Chablis is a little off the beaten track from the rest of the Burgundy wine region. It can also be accessed directly from the A6, on the Paris side of the Burgundy wine region, roughly an hour’s drive closer to Paris than the rest of the Burgundy wine region.