Somm Speak: Leslee’s Perfect Super Bowl Pairings

The Super Bowl. Isn’t it practically considered a ‘beer holiday’? I mean really, capsule stuff what goes better with football than beer? I’m admitting it…beer is unquestionably the perfect pairing to football, physician especially the Super Bowl. But, won’t you give wine a chance this weekend, too? (Smiley Face, Wink Wink)

Thought I’d throw out a few wine pairings for you football fans this weekend, knowing there’s gotta be someone coming over for the Super Bowl that loves wine more than beer, right? Plus, a really easy game day ‘Slow cooked Cola Wings’ recipe to boot!

Got chips and dip?Kila Cava

Chips LOVE anything sparkling! Again, I know beer does the trick here, but really, the sparkling wine section is your Hail Mary when pairing to über salty, crackly chips and dips. While I’m always a fan of Champagne, from its iconic region of France, sometimes the price points don’t exactly make it all that friendly to buy from. Need a quick & easy couple of bubbles that won’t break the bank? I love Cava for just this purpose. Try the Kila Cava from Spain; fresh & zippy, cut with sliced green apple—perfect for any game day salty chip and cheesy dip scenario. Plus at $10, it’s a bubbly you can’t refuse.

Fired up to get at all those finger lickin’ fried foods?

Jansz Brut RoséBubbles again! The bubbles in sparkling wines act as little scrubbing agents that lift excess fat or oil from your palate, keeping your mouth deliciously happy for your next round of fan food. When it comes to wings (the not so spicy variations) I generally grab for a sparkling rosé of sorts. Generally those fattened up with a touch of Pinot Noir do the trick here, giving your sparkly a little texture and earthy backbone, especially if you’re wings are sauced to the max! Next time you’re out shopping your favorite retail store, look for the Tasmanian Jansz Brut Rosé. This one sits a bit closer to the $23-$24 mark, but I will tell you that it’s well worth the money. Loaded with juicy bits of strawberry & raspberry, the palate is wrapped by little hints of blood orange and pear. A perfect pairing to the Slow Cooked Cola Wing recipe I’ll leave with you at the end of my post.

Okay, okay, now on to the ribs & burgers!

Renwood ZinfandelSome of my favorite foods for the big game. Ribs, especially when done super sticky demand a dense, rich red like Zinfandel, South American Malbec or Syrah. Zinfandel is my fave when it comes to this pairing as the grape delivers bits of black pepper that help to off-load the sticky bits of your barbeque. One of my ‘go-tos’ for this category is the Renwood Zinfandel from Amador County, California. It’s like opening a Smucker’s raspberry jar! I can never get enough of this Zin with a really gooey barbequed rib!

Last but not least – don’t forget about the two grapes Malbec & Syrah, when pairing to anything grilled. From brats to burgers, Malbec ends up working magically with a whole slew of smoky grill treats. And Syrah, an absolute gem when working with anything PIG. Pulled pork sammies, bacon, pork belly…oh wait, and more bacon, bacon and BACON! Catch my drift? Syrah & all things pork = perfect pairing! Here, South America has the Malbec category covered for the most part – I like the Crios Malbec, a real steal for just $10. Black fruit with bits of leather & spice, the wine delivers way more than the Alexander Hamilton you’re gonna pay for it. As for Syrah, check out Washington State for some of the best buys in the domestic category. Often times you can find some real deals in this section of the store!

There you have it! From sparkling whites and pinks to good ol’ fashioned burger wine, you’re now set to add grapes to your beer bucket for the Super Bowl. And, as promised, here’s that recipe for the Slow Cooked Cola Wings! Pair to the Jansz sparkling rosé I recommended above for the best pairing. Clink, Clink!

slow-cooked-cola-wings-recipe

Slow Cooked Cola Wings
Recipe by Brianna Beaudry for Cooking.com

Ingredients
2 1/2 pounds chicken wings, cut at joint
1 cup cola
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons Sriracha hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Add wings to the prepared baking dish and season on both sides with salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, whish together cola, vinegar, soy sauce, Sriracha & garlic powder. Pour over the wings. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour 45 minutes.

Somm Speak is a monthly feature on the Perfect Pint Blog that encourages you to think outside the sixpack. Certified Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusée (my vinous other half) offers tips, tricks and topics to push your palate beyond beer to explore the wonderful world of wine.

photo-leslee

Alaskan Brewing Co. Big Mountain Pale Ale

I remember well my first taste of Alaskan Amber Ale. I was on tour with my theater company. We were in one of those steak and ale chain places to grab a bite to eat after a show. They had this beer from Alaska that I had never heard of. From the first sip, case ambulance I was hooked. It had all the toast and biscuit maltiness that I adore. I gushed so effusively that everyone else at the table ordered it as well.

Since then I’ve gotten to know Alaskan Brewing much better. I had the opportunity to do an extensive interview with founder Geoff Larson. I have tasted a ton of Alaskan beers. Alaskan Winter Ale is one of my favorite cold-season brews. And you can’t beat Alaskan Smoked Porter. Honestly, view I’ve never had a beer from Alaskan Brewing Co. that I didn’t like.

I’m headed to Alaska for a couple of days in April. I’ll mostly be in Fairbanks, but I hope to take a jaunt up to Juneau to stop in for a visit.

Big Mountain Pale Ale is a new addition to the Alaskan lineup – at least here in Minnesota. The name pays homage to the mountains of Alaska and the climbers who scale them.

Here’s my notes:

Big Mountain Pale AleBig Mountain
Alaskan Brewing Company, Juneau, Alaska
Style: American Pale Ale
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
5.7% ABV
45 IBU

Aroma: Citrus hops lead – grapefruit peel, grapefruit juice, oranges. A bit of floral comes in as well. Low caramel malt. Medium fruity esters.

Appearance: Dark gold to light amber. Slight haze. Full, off-white foam with excellent retention.

Flavor: Good balance of malt to hops. Delicate. Malt character is toasty and toffee – dry like an English beer. Bitterness is medium-high – balanced by low malty sweetness. Hops give flavors of oranges, grapefruit peel and pineapple. The toasted malt flavors really set off the citrus. Some English-like esters with maybe a slight hint of butter. Finish is dry and quick with lingering toffee and minty hops.

Mouthfeel: Medium body. Medium carbonation. Slight astringency.

Overall Impression: Yum! An Anglo/American pale ale. Malt and balance are definitely English inspired. Hops are all American. It feels delicate. It doesn’t smack you in the face. Refreshing and balanced.

Stone Brewing Co. Delicious IPA

IPA, see experimental hop varieties, malady gluten concerns – three things that are really hot in the beer world right now. So what happens when you put them all together? Delicious IPA from Stone Brewing Co. That’s what.

Delicious IPA is not actually gluten-free. It’s one of those reduced gluten beers like Omission or Two Brothers Prairie Path. It’s brewed with barley malt and then the gluten is removed with an enzyme that brings it below the federal guidelines for gluten-free of 20ppm. The problem is that gluten can’t be accurately measured below 20ppm, pilule so there is no way of actually knowing with any certainty what amount of gluten remains. Therefore, if you really are a celiac sufferer, drink with caution.

El Dorado is the one and only hop variety used in this beer. It was released in 2010 and is grown exclusively by CLS Farms in Moxee, Washington. It is a high alpha-acid variety that is also high in essential oils, making it good for both bittering and character. The farm website describes its profile as tropical fruit and stone fruit. The folks at Stone say it reminds them of “lemon Starburst candy.”

IPAs are not really my thing. It’s not that I don’t like them, but the super-hoppy beers don’t tend to be my go-to. I have historically had issues with the beers from Stone Brewing Co. Not because they aren’t well made, but because to my palate they focus too much on bitterness and not on hop flavor and aroma. I’m not such a fan of the bitter.

That said, they have made some hoppy beers that I love. I’m crazy for Go-To IPA, even though there is nothing about that beer that I should like. Delicious IPA is a pretty audacious name. But then, audacity is what Stone does best. Does the beer live up to its moniker?

Here’s my notes:

stone-delicious-ipaStone Delicious IPA
Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, California
Style: American IPA
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
7.7% ABV
80 IBU

Aroma: Resiny, tropical fruit hoppiness – mango, pineapple. Some strong lemon citrus in there, too. Lemon Starburst is correct. Malt aromatics are very low – light toast. There may be some fruity esters in there, but the hops deliver such a fruity wallop that it’s really hard to tell.

Appearance: Dark gold and brilliant. Huge head of creamy, white foam with excellent retention.

Flavor: Flavor follows the aroma. Hops dominate, but bitterness is remarkably soft for 80 IBU – medium to medium-high. Hop flavors are the star – lemon, tropical fruit. There is an impression of tartness – almost citric acid. Malt character is low with light toast and just-balancing sweetness. The finish is dry with lingering bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Surprisingly light body for nearly 8%. Medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: This is 7.7% and 80 IBU? If I weren’t reading those words on the bottle and in a press release, I wouldn’t have believed it. I thought this was some kind of session IPA. So light and drinkable. Despite the high IBUs, the focal point of this beer is hop flavor and aroma, a departure from my normal impression of Stone beers. I could sit and smell it for days. And it’s reduced gluten for those who have sensitivities.

Grapes & Grain Adventure Travel

logo APP-Amusee

For the first time since our two businesses came together almost six years ago, Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew of A Perfect Pint and Certified Sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusée are venturing into the world of beer/wine touring!

Because this is a new venture, we thought it important send a survey to those of you who could be potentially interested in coming with us on our first trip. We know that surveys are not exactly at the top of everyone’s list. They can be time consuming and tedious. But to help make this first trip a resounding success, we would greatly appreciate your input.

So please, grab a glass of your favorite beer or wine, sit down for 30 seconds in your most comfortable spot, and share with us your honest feedback! You can access the survey here.

Thanks. Leslee and I appreciate your feedback.

Leslee & Michael

Farnum Hill Semi-Dry Cider

There is cider and there is cider.

Most mass-market ciders available in this country are sweet-ish, juice drinks made from concentrate or from culinary apples. This is true even for most of the “better” brands. To make really good cider you need the balance and flavor provided by different types of heirloom cider apples. Not for eating, these apples give sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and tannins that together create ciders of real depth and complexity. The problem is, most of these cider apple trees in this country were ripped out during prohibition. Not too many orchards still grow them.

There are a few. Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, New Hampshire is one of them. Over half of their acreage in two different locations is given over to these odd-tasting fruits. They are the biggest grower of cider apples in the U.S.

The folks at Poverty Lane use the juice from these apples to make Farnum Hill Ciders. They take cider seriously. As their website states, “On Farnum Hill, we use the word ‘cider’ to mean an alcoholic beverage fermented from particular apples, just as ‘wine’ is fermented from particular grapes.” Also like wine, the idea of “terroir” come into play, as the same variety of apples grown in different places will exhibit different characteristics. Farnum Hill ciders embrace the idea of regional cider.

Farnum Hill produces a number of different ciders. I have only seen three in the local market – Semi-Dry, Extra Dry, and Dooryard. I discussed the Extra Dry and Dooryard ciders last May in my Star Tribune column. These do not seem to be currently available. [I’m told that Extra Dry and Dooryard are available. I just haven’t seen them in a while.] Semi-Dry is in stores now. I tried it last night.

Here’s my notes:

Farnum Hill Semi DryFarnum Hill Semi Dry
Poverty Lane Orchards & Farnum Hill Cider, Lebanon, New Hampshire
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle
7.4% ABV

Aroma: Minerals. Red apple skin. Pears and pineapples. So much fruit. There is even a hint of banana in the background. A suggestion of sweetness come in soft whiffs of honey and light brown sugar.

Appearance: Medium gold and brilliant. Low (nearly no) white head with no retention.

Flavor: Same slate/mineral note from the aroma. The fruit also carries over – Tart red apple. Pear. Peaches. Pineapple. Lemon juice and lemon zest. Very low green banana. Like the aroma, so much fruit. Low sweetness – honey. Medium bitterness. Very dry finish. Moderately high tannins grab the edges of the tongue after swallowing. Mouthwatering acidity – saliva floods the mouth.

Mouthfeel: Medium light body. Low carbonation (petilent). Moderate astringency.

Overall Impression: So good! “Semi-dry” is a bit misleading. There is very little that is “sweet” about this cider. It is dry, dry, dry. The tannins and acidity are high. Any perception of sweetness comes from the abundance of fruity notes that balance the bitter. As the website says, “On Farnum Hill, that much-abused word ‘dry’ is taken literally…”

Schell’s Noble Star Collection: Dawn of Aurora

Light, help bright, medical and effervescent, decease with a touch of refreshing, acidic tartness, Berliner Weisse is one of the styles du jour of American brewers. In its place of origin however, the style is nearly dead. It was once the most popular alcoholic drink in Berlin. 700-plus breweries are said to have been making it at the height of its popularity in the 19th-century. Now there is only one – Berliner Kindl. Though tasty, it is a shadow of the complex brew that Berliner Weisse once was.

The history of Berliner Weisse is dim. Multiple stories give conflicting accounts of its origin. Some say French Huguenots brought the style to Berlin in the 1700s after picking up brewing techniques from the makers of red and brown ales in the Flanders region of what is now Belgium. Another story says that it is an offshoot of an even older style, Boryhan, which was popular in Berlin in the 1600s.

Early Berliner Weisse was made with a mix of approximately 50% wheat and 50% barley malt. The wort was not boiled. Hops were boiled separately in water. The boiling hop infusion was then added to the mash along with unboiled hops. The overall hopping rate was very low.

Malted grain is rife with lactic acid producing bacteria and other microflora. Because it was not boiled, the wort remained unsantitized, meaning that these organisms could work alongside brewer’s yeast to complete fermentation. The resulting beer would have been light and dry with little residual sugar. Fruity and sour flavors would have dominated.

Today we think of Berliner Weisse as a low-alcohol, nearly white, wheat beer. But there were once many types of Berliner sour beers. Some were brewed with darker malts. Others were brewed to a higher alcohol content. It is this high-gravity style Berliner Weisse that Jace Marti of August Schell Brewing Company is exploring with Dawn of Aurora, the latest release in the Noble Star Collection.

Like the other beers in this series, Dawn of Aurora is aged for an extended period in the 1936, cypress-wood tanks that were once the brewery’s main fermenters. It utilizes a Brettanomyces yeast “obtained” from a long-defunct weisse brewery in Berlin. This one is a different strain than was used in the other Noble Star beers. Dawn of Aurora clocks in at 8% alcohol, but has only 5 IBU.

Here’s my notes:

Dawn of AuroraDawn of Aurora
August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota
Style: “Starkbier”-style Berliner Weisse
Serving Style: 750 ml bottle
8% ABV
5 IBU

Aroma: Bright acidity – both lactic and acetic. Fruity – yellow grapefruit, lemons, and apricots. Especially apricots. Low, bready malt with some toasty overtones.

Appearance: Dark gold/orange. Cloudy. Clears a bit as it warms, but maintains a haze. Full head of fluffy, white foam with excellent retention.

Flavor: High acidity balanced by low sweetness mid-palate. Fruit is in front. Lemons and grapefruit return from the aroma. Apricots take on a much larger role, becoming the absolute dominant player as the beer warms. Low biscuit and bready malt comes in mid-palate and stays into the finish, contrasting and accentuating the stone fruits. Finish is very dry, lingering on stone fruit, lemon and light biscuit malt.

Mouthfeel: Light body, but with a mouth-filling quality. High carbonation, effervescent. Champagne-like.

Overall Impression: Beautiful! Lovely stone fruit and baked crust impression, like apricot cobbler. Let it warm up slightly from refrigerator temperature to really let the stone fruit and biscuit develop. When it does, it sings.

Eastlake Brewery & Taproom – A First Look

Eastlake Craft Brewery

I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions. This year I did. I resolve to get caught up on the Minnesota taprooms. So many have opened, patient so many of which I have not been to. It’s a time and money thing mostly. I have precious little of both. I’m also a cheapskate and an introvert. Spending too much of my cash and extroversion reserves even in pursuit of beer is a difficult mental leap. But I have resolved.

This was not a thought out resolution. It was a spur of the moment decision made Friday afternoon as I was nodding off while trying to get work done. Needing a change of activity, see I decided a taproom visit would be in order. It was Friday, click after all. I hopped in the car and headed to the nearest one that I had not yet visited – Eastlake Craft Brewery.

Eastlake is located in the Midtown Global Market on East Lake Street. The Global Market is an internationally-themed, public market with groceries, food vendors and boutique shops of all kinds. Located in the old Sears department store building, it is brimming with produce, meat, fish, and art. They hold weekly educational and entertainment programs. It’s a unique and colorful place that offers a magnificent olfactory overload the minute you walk in.

And now you can get a brewed-on-site beer. Eastlake Craft Brewery opened three weeks ago on December 11th. Owner/Brewer Ryan Pitman was a homebrewer. Prior to cranking up the kettle at Eastlake he had no professional brewing experience. This can bode poorly for a new brewery these days, but in this case it seems to be working out. The beers were generally solid across the board with no obvious off-flavors and plenty of desirable on-flavors. They offer clean, layered profiles with good attenuation.

Pitman started things off with mostly lighter, sessionable ales. The strongest beer on the current list tops out at 7% ABV. They go all the way down to a particularly tasty 4.1% table saison. Bigger brews are on the way, though. He’s got a double brown in the works at 8%, along with others. Pitman’s tastes lean toward the Belgian brews. The list leans heavily in that direction. But these are crisp beers like saison, Belgian pale ale, and Belgian IPAs instead of the expected abbey styles.

For non-drinkers there is root beer and Deane’s Kombucha on draft. (I’m happy to see Deane’s back on the market, albeit in non-alcoholic form.) You can order a One Two Punch, which is a blend of kombucha and beer. As the menu says, “Ask a server for a recommendation or let your creativity fly.” Food can be brought in from any of the many vendors in the Market. You can order directly at the bar from Manny’s Tortas, El Burrito Mercado, and Hot Indian Foods. The food will be delivered to you in the taproom.

My favorites from the tap list were Increasingly Lost Saison, Stick Style IPA, and Devil’s Kettle Belgian IPA.

Increasingly Lost Saison – This is a straight up table saison in the mold of Avril Saison from Belgium’s Brasserie Dupont. It’s a light and refreshing session brew coming in at only 4.1% ABV. Bright lemony overtones stand out in both the flavor and aroma. Peppery spice offers a zippy counterpoint. Subtle bubblegum notes fill in the background along with low, crackery, pils malt. Bitterness is moderate, but accentuated by the very dry finish.

Stick Style IPA – Tangerine and melon hops dominate the nose with floral notes underneath. This carries into the flavor. The same bright tangerine and melon are joined by juicier stone fruits. The focus is on hop character over bitterness. In fact, bitterness is pretty restrained for an IPA. Not a bad thing. It’s not quite a sweet-leaning Midwestern IPA, but also not quite a hop-dripping west coast version either. The malt profile makes a strong impression of toffee and toast. It’s a malty IPA, but not sweet. The finish is off-dry. A light sweetness that lingers into the finish is the only detractor.

Devil’s Kettle Belgian IPA – Full bodied and full flavored. It’s the strongest beer on the menu currently at 7% ABV. Medium-high bitterness lingers into the finish. Hop flavors bring spicy, floral and stone fruit overtones that blend with some fruit from fermentation. Malt character is huge, but again not sweet – biscuit and toffee. Belgian yeast does bring some fruit, but leans to the phenolic side with pepper and light clove. This is a good food beer. I really wanted some pulled pork with this. A pulled pork taco? Lingering over the glass it seemed to become a bit cloying by the end. It’s really tasty, but maybe a one-and-done beer for me.

The space is simple and casual with one wall open to the market. Seating is at mostly communal tables, but there is ample room at the bar as well. It struck me as a place for lunchtime meetings or as a pre-game stop off on the way to other evening plans.

Eastlake Brewery & Taproom
Midtown Global Market
920 E. Lake St. #123
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Hours
Thursday – 11 am to midnight
Friday – 11 am to midnight
Saturday – 11 am to midnight
Sunday – 11 am to 6 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday
They open early for English Premier League Soccer