BOTW– Port Brewing Hop 15 Ale

Port Brewing first brewed their Hop 15 in 2002 to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Pizza Port Brewing, Hop 15 is a Double IPA.

The India Pale Ale style allegedly dates to the time of the British Empire’s period in India. They discovered their traditional English Style Ales did not travel well to hot climates, so they boosted the amount of hops in the beer. Part of hops function in beer, aside from flavor is as a preservative, so increasing the amount in the beer supposedly made it keep better on the voyage to India.

I think part of the other appeal of India Pale Ales is that they are usually lighter than traditional English Ale. In the heat and humidity of India, I just don’t think traditional English Ale, with its heavy body was as appealing as it had been back home.

Double IPAs, as far as I know, are an American invention. Usually, the brewer uses at least twice as much hops in the beer. To balance the bitterness of the increased hops, they usually also increase the malt levels and thus the sweetness of the beer.

According to the Hop 15 label, Port Brewing uses 15 different types of hops in their Hop 15 Ale. To continue the 15 connection, they added these hops to the boil every 15 minutes.

Coming in at 10% Alcohol by volume, this is a serious beer. Still, it is very well balanced, considering the alcohol and extreme hoppiness. Citrus and pine dominate the smell and the initial taste. Good body and some nice fruit character in the middle tastes. Definitely worth seeking out, if, like me, you are a hop head.

Alexander’s Sister Cocktail

Alexander’s Sister Cocktail

1/3 Dry Gin (1 oz Beefeater’s Gin)
1/3 Creme de Menthe (1 oz Brizard Creme de Menthe)
1/3 Sweet Cream (1 oz Cream)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Ladies are advised to avoid this cocktail as often as possible.

Or anyone else for that matter. My aversion to dairy and overly sweet cocktails makes this slightly stiffer cousin of the Grasshopper one of my least favorite of cocktails from the “Savoy Cocktail Book.”

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Anchor’s Genevieve Gin

It seems like every other day there is a new Gin on the Market.

Everyone hypes their new wonderful ideas for flavoring their Gins. Grape flowers. Unusual spices and herbs.

All of these products are designed to make Gin more appealing to the “modern drinker,” whoever it is the particular liquor companies think that is. Perhaps it is a vodka fancier, thus the company give their gin as clean a finish as possible and as neutral a flavor as they can manage and still call it “Gin”. Perhaps it is an upscale female drinker, thus the company adds floral components. Or maybe it is the luxury drinker, thus the company adds incredibly expensive ingredients and charges over $50 US per bottle for what amounts to a flavored vodka.

My first problem with most of these products, is I’m a bit of a classicist.

You can’t use any of these new Gins in classic cocktails and be certain that the results will be appealing or even good. Basically these new Gins all need particular cocktails that are tuned for their strengths or weaknesses.

My other problem with all these companies releasing new style Gins is there are two styles of Gin that are nearly completely un-represented in the American spirits market: Genever and Old-Tom.

If you’re going to take a chance on launching a product in the US, why not make one in either of these two non-existent styles? You’d think a built in market among upscale cocktail bars and cocktail enthusiasts would be enough to convince some marketing or product executive somewhere.

Fortunately, our own Anchor Distilling is not one to go in for trendy styles. They’ve been producing two 100% Rye whiskies they claim are authentic to the 18th and 19th Century for several years now. They launched an outstandingly juniper-ey (take that vodka fanciers!) Gin called Junipero several years ago. In 2006, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1906 quake, they released a version of their Rye Whiskey aged for more than 10 years in once used charred oak barrels.

This year, as if sensing the release of David Wondrich’s book chronicling the life and times of Jerry Thomas, “Imbibe!” they released a Genever-style Gin called Genevieve.

Now, as you may or may not know, almost none of the Gin producers in the US distill the alcohol they make their Gin from. They simply buy bulk ethanol from Midwestern industrial suppliers like Archer Daniels Midlands and re-distill with spices. I won’t be judgmental about this; but, it is apparent from the final products that some Gin producers spend more time making decisions on the quality of the ethanol than others do.

For their Junipero Gin, Anchor distilling buys “special” ethanol, (or Grain Neutral Spirits,) soaks the spices and herbs in it, and then re-distills.

However, Genever-style Gin is made from a less highly distilled spirit, basically a young whiskey.

For their newly released Genevieve, they actually brewed something similar to a “beer” and then distilled it with the spices to make the Gin.

Instead of the usual clean flavor profile and thin body of Grain Neutral Spirits based Gins, this gives the Genevieve a flavor profile and body more like a juniper and spice flavored young whiskey. Not only that, but, it is beautifully distilled with the great length of scent in the glass you can only get from spirits produced in pot stills.

What to do with this delightful potation?

Well, frankly, so far, I have found no better application than the “Improved Gin Cocktail” from the 1887 version of Jerry Thomas’ “Bartender’s Guide”.

Improved Gin Cocktail

Take 2 dashes Boker’s (or Angostura) Bitters.
3 dashes gum syrup. (Scant teaspoon 2-1 Simple Syrup)
2 dashes Maraschino. (Scant teaspoon Maraschino Liqueur)
1 dash Absinthe. (Kubler Absinthe is now available in CA! Stop Messing about with Absinthe Susbtitutes!)
1 small piece of the yellow rind of a lemon, twisted to express the oil.
1 small wine-glass of Hollands Gin. (2 oz Anchor Genevieve)

Fill (mixing) glass one-third full of shaved (cracked is fine) ice, shake (stir please) well, and strain into a fancy cocktail glass, put the lemon peel in the glass and serve. The flavor is improved by moistening the edge of the cocktail glass with a piece of lemon.

Since first reading about this cocktail in the New York Times a couple years ago, I’ve made it with nearly every Gin in my liquor cabinet. Making it with the Genevieve blows every other version, (and nearly every other cocktail!) I’ve tried out of the water. Instead of a Gin Cocktail, it is more like a holiday spice flavored Sazerac.

I know you probably won’t believe me; but, this is one of the most amazing cocktails I have tried in my life. If you stop by my house in Bernal Heights, I will be glad to make you one and change your mind.

Or, ask them to make you one at Alembic here in San Francisco, as I know they have the Genevieve and everything else called for in the recipe.

Hey Fritz, how about an Old-Tom?

Alexander Cocktail (No. 2)

Alexander Cocktail (No. 2)

1/3 Crème de Cacao. (generous 3/4 oz Crème de Cacao)
1/3 Brandy. (generous 3/4 oz Korbel VSOP Brandy)
1/3 Fresh Cream. (generous 3/4 oz Sweet Cream)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. (Even though I neglected it, a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg or cocoa is a nice addition to this cocktail.)

I guess I don’t particularly think of this as a 1930s style cocktail, as by the time I grew up in the 1970s, it was a staple of bars all over the Midwest.

I do, however, have a vague memory of it being an ice cream blender drink when I was growing up, rather than a cocktail.

Like the Alexander (No. 1) it does need to be shaken well, and to me is rather more appealing.

Oddly, on Feist’s new record “The Reminder” there is a song about a boy she calls her “Brandy Alexander.” “Always gets me into trouble,” but, “It goes down easy.” A fine characterization of a Brandy Alexander, if there ever was one.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin Risotto, Chicken Apple Sausages, and greens tossed with figs, blue cheese, and a raspberry-sherry vinegar vinaigrette.

Boy, the salad really turned out well!

Just mashed a bunch of raspberries in sherry vinegar and then strained through cheesecloth. Added a little sugar, a small minced clove of garlic, and a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard. Whisked in the olive oil.

Even though the figs weren’t the best (figs! such a crap shoot!), it was a great combination.

BOTW — Ommegeddon

Well, who can resist a beer called Ommegeddon?

From the Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York comes this ominously named brew.

It is a Belgian-style ale brewed with a type of yeast called Brettanomyces otherwise known as “Brett”.

Brett is an interesting thing. It is often feared in the wine industry. A small bit of Brett can be OK in a heartier red wine, lending complexity and interest. A wine with an overlarge population of Brett, on the other hand, can exhibit smells that are often described as wet dog, mulch, or farmyard.

However, in certain styles of Belgian beers, Brett is actively cultivated. Russian River Brewing, in Santa Rosa, has gone so far as to brew a beer with no traditional beer yeast, only Brett.

Beers with some Brett gain complexity of flavor and are often described as “Dry” or “Winey”. There is often a straw or farmyard character and can be a slight bitter aftertaste.

To the best of my knowledge, this beer is Brewery Ommegang’s first experiment with Brett. They produced a limited amount, and are planning on making a batch every year.

What other glass should you serve a beer called “Ommegeddon” in?

To me, this first try, is more interesting than compelling. For one thing, they have aggressively dry hopped this beer, which is not something that is typically done in Belgian style ales. To me the hops comes across as a bit over done, almost to the point of leaving a soapy taste in your mouth. It is also quite sweet, more like a Belgian Triple than the lambics and farmhouse ales that really benefit from the complexity of Brett. On the whole the flavors of the beer just don’t quite come together for me.

While I can’t whole heartedly recommend this beer, I do applaud Brewery Ommegang for taking a chance on a new style and look forward to the further iterations of Ommegeddon.

Alexander Cocktail (No. 1)

Alexander Cocktail

l/2 Dry Gin. (1 1/2 oz Dry Gin)
1/4 Crème de Cacao. (3/4 oz)
1/4 Sweet Cream. (3/4 oz Cream)

Shake (very!) well and strain into cocktail glass. (Garnish with a sprinkle of cocoa.)

You probably won’t find this version of the Alexander made too often anymore, though at one time it was probably the most popular. The Brandy Alexander seems to be the default these days.

In any case, the gin version of the Alexander is alright, I suppose, if you like this sort of girly type drink. Like all cream based cocktails, you do need to really shake the Alexander Cocktail hard and long, to give it the lightness and air it needs.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

Spicy Tofu Redux (again)

As she had been out of town the last time I made spicy tofu, Mrs. Flannestad requested that I repeat the Shitake and Chard version for her last night.

As usual, it turned out quite delicious, especially with the Far West Fungi shitakes.

However, we did experiment with Wildwood Tofu’s (no Soy Deli, thanks!) “Super Firm” tofu.

I’m afraid it turns out I’m not much of a fan of “Super Firm” tofu. Rather than creamy, it has a spongy texture that is just not appealing.