Somm Speak: Leslee’s Perfect Super Bowl Pairings

The Super Bowl. Isn’t it practically considered a ‘beer holiday’? I mean really, what goes better with football than beer? I’m admitting it…beer is unquestionably the perfect pairing to football, 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 by Brianna Beaudry for

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

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.


Summit Union Series #3 – Southern Cape Sparkling Ale

Beer styles emerge for many reasons. Ingredient availability, economics, consumer taste, and water are all factors. Even climate can play a role, as in the development of “steam beer” in San Francisco where 19th-century lager brewers were unable to rely on frigid winters and ice to achieve cold fermentation and conditioning temperatures. Because these factors tend to be regional, beer styles also often begin as regional phenomenon.

And so it is with Sparkling Ale, the native-born style of Australia. From the earliest days of the Australian colony, beer was seen as a more wholesome and less intoxicating alternative to rum, whiskey and other spirits. A strong brewing industry, it was believed, would also have a favorable economic impact on the new colony, providing jobs and promoting agriculture. Brewing was encouraged and even subsidized with government grants.

Brewing in Australia was a difficult proposition at the time. Ingredient supply was sporadic and the warmer climate than that “back home” in England led to beer that was often subpar. This led to the closure of many of these original breweries. Those that survived sometimes adulterated their beer with opper sulphate, tobacco and cocculus indicus (a very bitter poison) to make up for their shortcomings.

Australian beer gained a negative reputation, leading to a growth in the market for imported beers, including the newly-rising lager beers. The warm climate created a demand from consumers for lighter, more refreshing brews, and lager beers filled that bill. Like the inventors of cream ale in the United States, ale brewers in Australia responded by creating a light, effervescent ale that came to be known as sparkling ale.

The style’s popularity was short lived. As lager beer continued to dominate, sparkling ale breweries closed, eventually leaving only one – the Cooper’s Brewery. Cooper’s Sparkling Ale is still available and until very recently was the only version of the style to be had in this country.

With its newest Union Series beer – Southern CapeSummit Brewing Company has brought us another, at least for a limited time. The Union Series is designed to showcase new and lesser known ingredients. In this case these new ingredients all hail appropriately from the southern hemisphere. Malts come from Australia and Chile, hops from New Zealand and South Africa. Here is Head Brewer Damian McConn giving an introduction to the new ale.

Here’s my notes:

Summit Southern Cape Sparkling AleSouthern Cape
Summit Brewing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota
Style: Australian Sparkling Ale
Serving Style: 12 oz. bottle
ABV: 4.4%
IBU: 47

Aroma: Malt centered with underlying fruity hop and ester compliment. Honey – like a sheet of beeswax. Fresh bread and graham cracker. Juicy fruit gum. Dried apricots. Light white-wine vinous notes.

Appearance: Medium gold and clear. 1 inch, creamy, white foam with excellent retention.

Flavor: Malt centered with more-than-balancing bitterness that lingers into the finish. Same honey notes from the aroma. Graham cracker and low toast. Sweetness is low. Hop bitterness comes midway, hitting the back of the tongue with a cutting sharpness. Hop flavor is low, providing a bit of spice and limey citrus. Subtle stone-fruit esters round it out. The end is all hops, with long-lingering bitterness dominating the dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium-high carbonation. Light astringency.

Overall Impression: Delicate but forceful somehow at the same time. A super-dry finish and slightly higher-than-normal carbonation keeps it light and lively on the tongue. The waxy honey notes ground it. Bitterness is stronger than I personally would prefer, but not enough to stop me from drinking it. For some reason I have the urge to make salad dressing with this. Hmmmm…..

Buffalo Wild Wings Launches New In-House Craft Beer Called Game Changer. Is It?

Buffalo Wild Wings is getting into craft beer. The wing shack/sports bar extraordinaire has teamed up with Red Hook Brewery to create a new in-house beer brand called Game Changer. I know, the Brewers Association says that Red Hook is only “crafty,” but screw them. I’ll call them craft for now. In the promotional video below Red Hook Brewmaster Matt Lickleider calls Game Changer a “sessionable” and “approachable” pale ale. Although I can find no mention of it on the B-Dub website, the new brew launches today (July 15th) at restaurants across the country.

The PR firm that works with Buffalo Wild Wings offered me the opportunity to stop in and sample Game Changer with some wings, so I took them up on it. I don’t claim to be a marketing professional. In fact, I downright suck at it. But I would like to offer some advice. Choose carefully which products you recommend for comparison to your own. I was sent a sampling sheet that suggested tasting Game Changer alongside a “domestic light” and an “I.P.A (or similar).” My quick glance at the tap handles revealed Bell’s Two Hearted as the one and only IPA available, although I later saw that they also had Fulton Sweet Child of Vine. Two Hearted is one of the best American-style IPAs made. Game Changer didn’t stand a chance.

“Sessionable” and “approachable” are both good words to describe Game Changer. When the bartender set down my pint he said, “It looks like a mix between [Grain Belt] Nordeast and a pale ale.” That’s a pretty accurate description of the beer’s overall profile. The light-amber ale has very subtle aromas that are mostly of floral/resiny cascade hops. A bit of caramel malt is barely noticeable underneath. The beer seemed thin, perhaps even a bit watery. The level of bitterness was medium at best, with light floral/resin hop flavors on top. Malt was equally subtle and lightly sweet, with caramel and toasty notes.

Flavor-wise I put Game Changer a notch above the Budweiser sample I tried next to it. (I couldn’t do a light beer. What’s the point?) In terms of body and aroma the two were about on par. Of course it paled next to Bell’s Two Hearted. But then as a sessionable and approachable pale ale, that was to be expected.

How did it stand up to wings? I sampled three wing sauces; Hot, Thai Curry, and Sweet BBQ. Game Changer was the best of the three beers with the Sweet BBQ wings. The subtle caramel in the malt worked with the sweetness of the sauce and the two felt about evenly matched. With the hot wings it really depends on what level of intensity you’re after. Game Changer toned down the heat a bit compared to the IPA, which set my head on fire (in a good way). The hot sauce verges on overpowering the milder beer, however. I didn’t find Game Changer to be a particularly good match to the sweet and spicy flavors of the Thai Curry wings, which surprised me. Perhaps more hops would have helped.

My overall impression of Game Changer is that Buffalo Wild Wings and Red Hook hit what they were aiming for. They’ve delivered a beer that gives light lager drinkers a more flavorful and “darker” option. It’s not a bad beer at all, but it has to be evaluated for what it is. Beer dorks looking for a gob-smack of flavor will be disappointed.

Is it a real game changer? No. But if you just want an easy-drinking beer that will let you knock back several pints during the UFC fights, then Game Changer might be a decent choice.

Draftmark Home Draft System

Father’s Day is just two days away and you don’t have a gift yet. To be honest, you haven’t even really thought about it. As you contemplate an appropriate present for dear old dad you hear a sucking sound and feel a light puff of air as all thought evacuates your brain. (Admittedly it’s mostly air in there anyway.) As you step through the front doors of Wal-Mart you become paralyzed; a deer caught in the headlights. You find yourself in some kind of Twilight Zone moment. You’re stationary in another dimension as the rest of the world buzzes around you in slow motion. The retiree greeter waves his welcome as though he were immersed in syrup. His “welcome to Wal-Mart” sounds like a 45 rpm record playing at 33. You hear an echoey rattle as a dude with a mullet and cut off T-shirt pushes a cart by on the left.

This is a good time for a beer. WAIT! Dad likes beer! There it is. The solution was right in front of you all along. You can do this.

If this is your situation, you might consider a home draft system. No, I don’t mean shelling out $600+ for a kegerator and keg, though that would be nice. I’m talking about one of those fit-in-the-fridge thingies. All the big brewers have got them. MillerCoors and Heineken rolled out first, but AB-InBev wasn’t far behind. Their Draftmark system was introduced in early 2012, but has only recently become available in the Twin Cities. I had the opportunity to give one of these devices a spin. It delivers exactly what it promises; draft beer in your refrigerator.

The premise of the thing is simple, though a wee bit mysterious. Beer comes in a one-gallon canister that looks a lot like a soda bottle. The canister is inserted into the machine and beer is poured from a tap faucet on the front. There is no CO2 cartridge. A battery operated compressor pushes the beer from the canister with air, but through some proprietary bottle-in-bottle technology the air never touches the beer. I haven’t figured out how this works, but I also haven’t tried very hard. The manufacturer claims that beer will stay fresh for up to 30 days.

What are the pros of the Draftmark system?

  • It’s inexpensive. $50 buys the machine and refill cartridges are $14-$16. That works out to about $1.50/12-ounce beer, slightly less than buying a sixpack.
  • Each refill cartridge comes with its own spout, so there is no need to worry about cleaning draft lines.
  • It’s easy to assemble and operate. Charge and insert the battery. Insert the spout. Place the bottle and twist. Pour beer.
  • It’s compact; about the size of a “fridge pack” of soda or a loaf of Wonder Bread.
  • It’s nice to have draft beer in the fridge.

The biggest downside is beer selection. It’s an AB-InBev product. You can only get AB-InBev products,  and precious few of those at present; Budweiser, Michelob Amber Bock, and Shock Top, along with a couple of better choices, Bass Ale and Goose Island Honkers Ale and IPA. Seeing as AB-InBev owns the world, there are other brands in their portfolio that would make for a more interesting assortment. They promise a wider selection in the future. Check here for a list of locations where refills can be purchased.

One note on use. Being a man, I didn’t read the manual until after using the thing. I became concerned when my first and second attempts poured pints of nothing but foam. The manual though says that this is normal, as the device has to charge.

The upshot: Would I rush out and buy one of these for myself? No. It’s kind of gimmicky. The beer selection is too limited and it just seems easier to get bottles or cans. But I have a gadget-loving, non-craft-beer-drinking brother-in-law for whom the system would be perfect.


Fulton Beer Buys A Brewery

On their newly re-vamped website, just launched this morning, Fulton Beer has announced that brewing equipment has been ordered and should arrive sometime this summer. I have reported in greater length on the City Pages Hot Dish Blog. Read it! Congratulations guys.

In other news, Harriet Brewing will be having it’s first growler sales at the brewery tomorrow (Saturday) from 1-5 PM. 3036 Minnehaha Ave, Mpls, MN. Be there!

Cheese and Ale at Cooks of Crocus Hill

There is still room to sign up for the Cheese and Ale class at Cooks of Crocus Hill.

Cheese and Ale: Pairing Beer and Cheese
With Fromager Ken Liss
Monday, May 17, 6 – 8 PM, $55

Join Fromager Ken Liss and Cicerone Michael Agnew for a satisfying session of sipping and nibbling. You’ll start with fromage fundamentals – types, textures, flavors, shopping, storing and serving – then discover how to choose beers that complement each cheese. Includes cheese and beer from around the world.

I’ve worked with Ken before. He is the former owner of Premier Cheese Market at 50th & France. He has taught numerous classes on cheese and cheese pairings at Cooks of Crocus Hill, The Four Firkins, and other places. He knows his stuff and knows how to present it with passion. You can sign up for this class or learn more about the classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill here.

Craft Brewers Conference: The Highlight Reel

I spent the last few days in Chicago attending the Craft Brewers Conference, a gathering of craft brewers from all over the United States and the World. It was an intense and exhilarating couple of days filled with fun, learning, moments of embarrassing beer-nerd sycophancy, and of course lots of beer. I will be writing several articles to recap the event and posting them both here and on my Hoppress blog. The first went up today. Craft Brewers Conference: The Highlight Reel. Check it out.

A pre-dinner smorgasbord.

Holiday Beers & Winter Warmers

The November meeting of the Twin Cities Perfect Pint Beer Club.

Holiday Beers & Winter WarmersWhen: Saturday, November 21, 2009
Cost: $25
You must be a member of the club to attend. Go to the Twin Cities Perfect Pint Beer Club to join and RSVP.

We just did fall beers, but Halloween is over and ‘tis the season to start making merry for the yuletide. Thanksgiving is all that stands between us and the Christmas shopping season. Every year at this time brewers around the world release their special holiday offerings. Spice and spruce are the order of the day, along with sumptuous malt and elevated alcohol to warm you up as the winter winds howl.

For the November meetup we will taste our way to holiday festiviousness by sampling eight of the season’s jolliest offerings. We’ll try a bit of everything from the ancient (for American craft brewing) tradition of Anchor Christmas to a big ‘ol Belgian fruitcake in a bottle and maybe a slightly funky Danish beer to round it all out.

If people are willing to pony up, I will try to score a bottle of Sam Adams 2009 Utopias, the strongest beer in the world.