As I have said before, I have never really been a beer drinker. Well except for that time in law school when I would have been better off skipping the “beer bong.” But I love learning about and tasting new things, so when the Central Market folks invited us to attend Discover Brewtopia, we said, “Of course!”
Wednesday kicked off the two-week celebration with a Beer Roundup. Frankly, I was there for the cheese. Ask anyone who knows me; I love cheese. In fact Joe’s late father teased me because whenever someone announced they were starving before dinner time, I’d tell them to “have a piece of cheese!” But in the spirit of the evening I tasted all of the featured beer, and ended up bringing 4 of the 8 selections home with me!
Now keep in mind I’m no Beer Wench, so most of these beers may not be for the serious hophead. But if you feel a bit adventurous you may just want to try them.
Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
My favorite pairing of the evening was the Beer and Chocolate! The chef prepared a chocolate bread pudding with chocolate beer sauce which appears to be Jamie Oliver’s Recipe I found online at The Sunday Times. Paired with this decadent dessert was the Breckenridge Brewery’s Vanilla Porter from Denver, Colorado. The folks at the brewery describe this one as an ale with all the chocolate and roasted nut flavor of a classic Porter, with an enigmatic surprise of real vanilla bean. I can’t do much better than that. For cheese pairings try Triple Cream Brie or Butterkase, a creamy, semi-soft cow’s milk cheese made in both Germany and Austria. A six pack is priced at $8.99.
Brooklyn Brown Ale
Another featured beer I really liked is Brooklyn Brown Ale from Brooklyn Brewery in New York. This one is melange of chocolate, fruit, caramel and coffee. It’s smooth and rich with a complex malt flavor. Brooklyn Brewery says this one started as a holiday specialty brew and is now one of their most popular beers year-round. Great pairings include Colby, Gloucester and Cheddar Cheese. Works well with salami and Bavarian mustard too!
Wild Blue Blueberry Lager
We still get harassed about the Pumpkin Ale I served at a tailgate in October about 10 years ago. So I was a bit hesitant to try a fruity-named beer, even if it did have a Rhino on the bottle. But the Wild Blue Blueberry Lager looked too tempting to pass up, especially with all the ladies raving about it. I would venture to guess it’s mainly a “chic beer.” Wild Blue comes from Blue Dog Brewing in Baldwinsville, New York. I love the whimsical label on this lager that fuses the taste of blueberries with premium American and German hops, barley malt and cereal grains. At 8 percent alcohol by volume, it’s on the higher end of those I tasted. Recommended pairings are Fresh Mozarella and Mascarpone. I loved it with fresh Chèvre as well. Central Market has it priced at $7.99 per six pack.
Magic Hat #9 – Not Quite Pale Ale
Joe likes IPAs. But they are much too “hoppy” for me. That’s why I liked the Magic Hat #9 from Burlington, Vermont. And of course, there’s the label. It’s Haight-Asbury and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In* rolled into one. In fact, another guy tasting it talked about the clock stuck on 4:20 p.m. on the famous corner that recalls the 1967 “Summer of Love” in San Francisco. The #9 is a crisp, fruity and refreshing, “not quite pale ale.” The Magic Hat folks have an awesomely fun website with a recipe for Chicken Mole to pair with #9. I tasted it with a bit of brie. Other pairings suggested: Mascarpone. Priced at $8.99 per six pack.
Stone Smoked Porter
Now this is a man’s beer. I liked it too, as she said in the old Irish Spring commercials. Dark, smooth and complex, it’s rich with coffee and chocolate flavors with a subtle smokiness. This is the beer I headed for first, because I love dark beer with a thick and creamy head. This American Porter is brewed in Escondido, California in North County San Diego. It was first released in December 1996 back when the Dow was climbing and most folks could actually visualize the American Dream of prosperity and a booming economy. The Clinton Years. Before the next guy decided to max out all of America’s credit cards.
But I digress. Love the gargoyle on the label. It pairs well with smoked meats and Taleggio, one of the oldest soft cheeses, which is aged in caves per tradition. The brew is sold fresh on tap on in 22-ounce bottles. ABV is just 5.9% and the single 22-oz bottle goes for $4.29 in the Houston market.
Central Market’s Discover Brewtopia runs through October 5 in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Southlake Texas, but these beers are available nationwide. For more information on the Texas events, see our previous post Discover Brewtopia.
*Laugh In was cutting edge when Joe and I were kids. My parents rarely let me watch it. It was challenging the “establishment” way before Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show and MTV. I cannot imagine anything like this allowed on the standard three white-bread networks–what with no faux real housewives or the dancing daughter of a 15-minutes-of-famer.
Check it out.