Photo: Parla Food, which offers awesome craft beer tours in Rome
Last time I was in Italy, I was a pimply collegiate backpacker subsisting on cheap pizza, even cheaper wine and the desperate desire to find a lass to lay me in a hostel. I failed miserably on that front, leading me to drink even more rotgut wine to drown my perceived sorrows. I left Venice and Florence with vile hangovers and an unhealthy dose of regret.
Was it the lack of love? Hardly. Celibacy was the unfortunate status quo on that trip. The bigger regret was that I never made it to Rome, a city I foolishly skipped because…I don’t remember. I was drunk a lot during that European backpacking sojourn. I made many terrible, irrational decisions with my travel itinerary, most notably sleeping in an Amsterdam park after ingesting hallucinatory mushrooms. Let me tell you: Being awoken at dawn by drug-peddling bicycle riders is, quite possibly, the world’s worst alarm clock.
Now that I’m older and (somewhat) wiser, I wish to correct a few of my youthful missteps. Crowning my list is a long-delayed trip to Rome. The journey is not for the museums or restaurants, but rather the beer. Stick with me here. In the mid-1990s, there was virtually no craft beer commercially produced in Italy. Today, there are around 400 breweries, 140 of which were established between 2008 and 2010. Italian breweries are using indigenous ingredients such as basil, chestnuts, grapes and roses to create beers every bit as complex as wine. Continue reading
Summit brewer Eric Harper dug deep into the history books for this pre-Prohibition beer. Photo: Pioneer Press
When it comes to Kentucky’s proud indigenous products, one thinks of ham, bacon and bourbon, a holy trinity that has given generations of Americans immeasurable pleasure. To that list please add a most unusual ale, the Kentucky Common.
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the style. The beer was popular around Louisville more than a century earlier, when the rank-and-file laborers favored it. Kentucky Common was often made with a blend of barley and corn. Of course, the cob-based vegetable is an essential ingredient in bourbon, which is also made according to a process known as sour mash.
Basically, grains and water are boiled to create nutrient-rich mash that’s blended with a bit of acidic spent mash that’s chockfull of live yeast. (Envision making sourdough bread with a starter.) The acids keep harmful bacteria and unwanted yeast at bay, allowing the mash to continue on its path to an oak barrel.
I could drink 14 of you.
Now that June has arrived, drinking season is officially in session — session beer, that is.
Named because you can savor several of them in a drinking session, this loose category of lower-alcohol beers (usually 4.5 percent ABV and below), following the guidelines at the Session Beer Project blog, dials down the booze but still retains plenty of aroma and flavor. In other words, they’re the perfect brews for sipping by the six-pack at the beach or a backyard BBQ.
Here are five of our favorite low-booze, high-flavor brews to knock back beneath the sun. What are yours? Continue reading
Quinoa waffle, why are you so good to me?
Whenever my wife and I told our friends and coworkers of our recent travel plans, we were met with blinking eyes, chased by an incredulous question: “Why are you visiting Minneapolis?” Uh, why wouldn’t we visit Minneapolis? Bike-friendly and packed with great breweries, restaurants and more cheese curds than one man should eat in a lifetime, it’s like catnip for culinary tourists.
Though we did little dining exploration in neighboring St. Paul (next time!), Minneapolis offered us plenty of food and drink to fill a weekend — and our bellies to bursting. Here are favorite things we drank and ate in the North Star State.
Hello, precious. A lobster roll from Island Creek Oyster Bar.
I liken living in New York City to being trapped in a cocoon surrounded by a force field. There’s so much to eat and drink in the metropolis that it’s tough to break out. Weeks and months pass before residents escape the city limits.
This brings us to Boston. It had been too long since my wife and I had driven the 220 miles north, so we decided to spend a weekend diving face-first into the city’s food and drink scene. Here’s how we happily came back five pounds heavier. Continue reading
Posted in Beer, Food, Travel
Tagged Boston, Craft Beer, Food, Food Republic, grass fed beef, harpoon brewery, Restaurants, Session Ale, Travel, vacation
It starts life as beer! Sort of. Credit: A Decadent Existence
Whiskey and beer have long embraced a special kinship. At bars, a bolt of the brown stuff is often served with a cool can of beer, a one-two punch that leads to long nights and achy mornings after.
Yet there’s more to this coupling than the promise of pleasure and, occasionally, pain. Whiskey begins life as a distiller’s beer, or wash, that’s made with malted barley, water and yeast. The difference is that beer is given a dose of hops, which contributes bitterness. Wash traditionally lacks hops, meaning it’s a raw ingredient. Translation: You do not want to drink un-hopped wash.
Another crucial distinction is that distilleries are concerned about starch conversion — unlocking the sugar in grains to create the most alcohol possible. Contrasting that, craft brewers use the available grain palette, not caring that darker-roasted grains offer fewer fermentable sugars. It’s all a tradeoff for flavor. This means that whiskey and bourbon require a slumber in charred oak barrels to transform the rough-edged white dog into a smooth sipping spirit.
But in recent years, brewers have begun pulling double duty as distillers, and distillers have begun relying on brewers’ tricks of the trade. For example, New Holland Brewing (Holland, MI) offers a line of beer-inspired brewers whiskeys, and Kentucky’s Corsair brews imperial stouts that are distilled and run through a hop-stuffed distillation column. On the other hand, California’s Charbay Winery & Distillery distills Bear Republic’s bottle-ready Racer 5 IPA, while Japan’s Kiuchi Brewery turns its aromatic Hitachino Nest White Ale into Kiuchi No Shizuku. Here are five of my favorite spirits blurring the line between beer and booze. Continue reading
British beer gets a bad rap as being boring. The brews are best known for milds and bitters—beer styles whose nuanced pleasures and restrained ABVs seem quaint to American craft-beer drinkers conditioned by hoppy, boozy beers that are about as subtle as a Will Ferrell film.
Thankfully, this is no longer the case. Over the last decade the British beer scene has begun blossoming, shaking off the shackles of cask ale and creating brews every bit as inventive as those crafted across the Atlantic Ocean. On your next visit to London, seek out these first-rate British beers. What are your favorites?
Fellow Americans, we’re living in a golden age of craft beer and Chinese grub as our nation is finally moving beyond Budweiser and General Tso—that fictitious soldier who led chicken charging into a deep fryer. But despite all the bitter IPAs, inky stouts and lip-singeing dan dan noodles currently awaiting your stomach, craft beer and Chinese food hardly ever intersect. At restaurants, the fieriest Far East fare is typically served with Tsingtao, a lager that’s every bit as nuanced as MGD. Bold foods deserve equally bold beer.
That’s the modus operandi at AmerAsia, the rare restaurant to combine top-flight Chinese food with beer not grabbed from the bottom shelf. Located in Covington, Kentucky, within spitting distance of Cincinnati and the Ohio River, AmerAsia is a funky little place in a sleepy little downtown. The walls are decorated with graffiti-style murals and kung fu movie posters like Enter the Dragon and Game of Death, as well as, uh, lesser-known classics like Beverly Hills Ninja. Continue reading
Posted in Beer, Food, Travel
Tagged Beer, Chinese Food, Craft Beer, Food, Food Republic, Kentucky, mapo tofu, sichuan cuisine, Travel
If the American craft-beer movement flew a flag, it’d feature an image of a pint glass filled with frothy India pale ale. Though this bitter brew has its roots in Britain, the IPA has become a runaway American sensation. Brewers have gone gaga for hops, crafting increasingly bitter brews bursting with flavors of citrus, pine resin, tropical fruits, mango and more. For taste buds accustomed to watery canned lagers, American IPAs are like that first ray of sunlight following weeks of clouds and rain.
While the modern IPA is a distinctly brash American construct, the Stars and Stripes do not have a lockdown on the style. Inspired by these bold and bracing brews, European and New Zealand beersmiths have begun dabbling in supercharged IPAs. The result is proudly bitter beers as familiar as they are foreign. Here are 5 IPAs that tickle my taste buds. Continue reading
Mmm…bia hoi in Hanoi! That is, fresh, cheap beer.
Food-loving globetrotters, here’s a bit of sound advice: If you’re headed to Vietnam’s northern city of Hanoi, we’d recommend you pack a pair of elastic-banded pants. The city is a wonderland of cheap eats and drinks, offering an endless variety of soups, noodles, buns, rolls and sandwiches paired with plenty of fresh herbs — and fresh beer, too.
You could spend a week eating your way through the hectic, motorbike-clogged streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter and never eat the same meal twice. I know I didn’t on my recent trip. Here are 20 dishes and drinks from Hanoi that haunt my hungry dreams.
Curious what I ate? Check out the full story at Food Republic.
In these dark, frigid depths of winter, piney IPAs just don’t cut it. Neither do prickly pilsners or even an inky stout. When the mercury dips low and the heater is cranked high, there’s one style of beer that’s guaranteed to stoke your stomach furnace: barley wine.
Consider this a most delicious oxymoron. The British-born barley wine contains no grapes. In fact, the beer style has nothing in common with Chardonnay or Merlot — save for an alcohol percentage that often tops double digits. Perhaps that explains why the thick, sometimes fruity, sometimes hoppy, always strong ale has become one of wintertime’s signature belly-warming brews, providing the liquid courage to shovel out the driveway yet again.
Broadly speaking, barley wines are broken down into several camps. British barley wines, like J.W. Lees & Co.’s Vintage Harvest Ale, are typically less brawny and more rounded. On the flip side, American brewers have a heavy hand with bitterness and booze. Case in point: Great Divide Brewing’s Old Ruffian packs more than 85 international bittering units (IBUs) and 10 percent ABV, while Rogue Ales’ XS Old Crustacean boasts more than 100 IBUs and an 11.5 percent ABV. Drink two, and it’s good night for you.
Here are five of our favorite barley wines for surviving winter’s chill. Continue reading
Now you can try that with a 16-ounce craft beer! Photo: Flickr/ALittaM
In my early, drunken twenties, not long after I shook my cost-driven affection for forty-ouncers of malt liquor, I fell under the sway of a tall boy. Well, perhaps I should say tall boys, because there’s no way I could glug just one 16-ounce can of beer.
Unlike the standard 12-ounce can, the tall boy has serious heft. It feels substantial, an honest pint for an honest price. But as my tastes morphed over the years, from mass-produced watery lagers to bitter IPAs and roasty stouts, I left the tall boy in my rearview mirror. You see, tall boys were the territory of Bud and Coors. Craft beer held no quarter in tall aluminum cylinders.
In recent years though, craft breweries have begun reclaiming the can, which keeps beer fresher by sealing it off from destructive light and oxygen. First came the 12-ounce vessels, which are now populated by Brooklyn Brewery, New Belgium and Oskar Blues, whose hoppy Dale’s Pale Ale trailblazed the crush-it-against-your-head category. Now comes the next step in the metal revolution: Craft beer in 16-ounces cans.
Be still my beating heart. This year, 16-ouncers stuffed with sublime craft brews are poised to take the mainstream leap. The next big thing in beer is, well, big beers. Here are five of our favorite tall boys to try. Continue reading