Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jaw Jacker Pizza

As you read this, millions of people are marking the change of the seasons by donning lederhosen, scarfing down sauerkraut and bratwurst, and chugging beer. It can only mean one thing: Oktoberfest.
Lager-lovers have until October 7 to get their polka on, (the annual festival, however interestingly enough, starts in September). What better way to celebrate at home than with America’s favorite beer food: pizza. Brats, apples, mustard, and caramelized onions will transport you to Bavaria, and your taste buds will be dancing on the table, or at least cheering Prosit!
1 tablespoon butter
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced in 1/4” slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
¾ cup of Arcadia's Jaw Jacker
2 or 3 fresh bratwurst
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
Founder's Pale Ale pizza crust
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 425°. Melt butter in skillet, add apple slices and sauté over medium heat until they begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Heat oil in a different skillet. Add sliced onions and sauté over low heat about 15 minutes until softened and beginning to brown. Add ¼ cup beer and increase heat. Cook until onions are deep golden and beer has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove onions from skillet and set aside.
Prick bratwursts with a fork and add to same skillet with ½ cup beer. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove lid and cook until browned and the beer has evaporated, about 2 more minutes. Remove from pan and cut into ¼” slices.
Roll out pizza dough on lightly floured surface into a 9” round. Brush pizza with mustard.
Sprinkle with mozzarella, then onions. Top with apple slices and bratwurst. Sprinkle with thyme. Bake until cheese melts and crust is crisp, 15 to 20 minutes.
Before baking
The finished product!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bottled Michigan: Short's Anniversary Ale

Experimental beers tend to run high on the alcohol content. I'm sure there's a reason for this; I just don't know why. The Short's Anniversary Ale is no different; at 11.7% abv, this beer is something that is to be savored, not slammed. And while it has its detractors, I consider this to be one of Short's most successful experimental ales.

The Anniversary Ale is (as the bottle tells you) “fermented with blood oranges and blood orange zest, dry hopped and spiced with green peppercorns.” It's difficult to pin down this beer, because to many purists, one probably shouldn't even consider this a beer at all. It certainly falls far short of the German purity laws. Wheat wines are very similar to barley wine, an old English strong ale packing a very high alcohol content (similar to wine), a thicker, sweeter taste, with a downplayed hops component. The difference between wheat and barley wine? Let me drop an egg of knowledge on you; wheat wines use wheat malt as a major component of their malt.

The base we have built here consists of a thick, high alcohol ale that has been made slightly more “fluffy” with the addition of wheat malt. All this exists in the Short's Anniversary Ale; it pours a deep copper-gold hue, with a thin, white head that stubbornly refuses to dissipate, even down to the last swallow. The color belies its strength, given that it looks much more like a simple fruit beer than anything else.

The smell is aggressive, almost obnoxious. It's warmer than the liquid itself, a characteristic borne from the almost 24 proof alcohol lurking beneath the otherwise innocent flavors. The overall characteristic in the nose is most certainly one of fermented oranges, with the blood orange mixing with the heady citrus hops and bolstered by that powerful alcohol base. The malt plays a minor – indeed, indistinguishable – role in the aroma, being upstaged completely by the sweet citrus from the blood orange.

The taste strikes boldly and without apology. Blood orange, dry hops, and the alcoholic twinge all hit the tongue at once. This is a very aggressive beer that has none of the coyness one might find in a well brewed IPA. The Anniversary Ale lays out all of its strengths at once, looks you in the eye and asks what you think. I've tasted beers that take this approach before, and typically I hate them for being too full of themselves to enjoy, but the Short's Anniversary Ale gets away with it because the smooth alcohol assuages much of the first punch before I could even exhale. In fact, the alcohol flavor is so pronounced that I'm very glad they dry hopped this beer and added the blood orange zest, otherwise this would be yet another slightly fruity barleywine, forgettable amongst its brethren. Exhaling reveals the peppercorn flavor; it adds just enough spice to the tail end to erase the alcohol feel and leave your mouth refreshed and ready for another sip. The beer may kick your ass, but it covers its tracks quite well.

My only complaint? It's tough to hinge a beer's balance on its alcohol and its citrus. I wanted some more malt flavor to peek through, even if such a request might not have been fit with the vision of this particular ale. That said, I may even need to take exception to my exception; with so many stubborn flavors in this beer, so many different ideas tied together into one organized expression despite a seeming cacophony of intent, perhaps the malt would have done nothing but added noise to an otherwise delicately balanced structure: the trombone in a string quartet.

I am constantly surprised by the depth and versatility one can find in the Michigan beer market – let alone the international beer market. From thick, sweet beers to sour belgian styles and refreshing farmhouse ales, beer has more personality and complexity than any other beverage I've experienced. Of the myriad different contributions to the family, Short's Anniversary Ale stands out as one of my favorites; this is a beer with all of the playfulness of an Oberon, all of the attitude of a Scotty Karate, and the delicate balance of a Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam. This is truly a fantastic addition to the Short's already wining stable.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Founder's Pale Ale Pizza

Beer and pizza have to be one of the most popular food combinations in the world. Can you even begin to imagine how much pizza and beer is consumed every Friday night somewhere in the world, or any night for that matter? At our house, homemade pizza night is quickly becoming a weekly occurrence. It’s infinitely flexible, incredibly cheap, fun to make, and, well..delicious. So, that got me thinking… Why not put beer into the pizza? That way you can make breakfast pizzas and get a sneaky one in without anyone being the wiser. Just kidding!

This recipe proves that pizza can be so much more than just an evening meal. With a little inspiration from a recent trip to one of our favorite local restaurants, I’ve gone for the breakfast pizza option below. It’s basically a posh version of bacon and eggs.

Here are the ingredients you will need to make four 12-inch pizzas:

1 cup warm (110 degrees to 120 degrees) Founder's Pale Ale
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 1/2 ounces fresh yeast
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Bocconcini (bite sized pieces of mozzarella)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

1) Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

2) Place your bottle of beer in a jug of hot tap water for a few minutes; you want to get the beer to a warm temperature to activate the yeast.

3) In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk to combine beer, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sugar, salt, and yeast. Fit bowl on electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix until incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly add flour, and mix until dough is fairly stiff, about 10 minutes.

4) On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Brush the inside of a large bowl with remaining tablespoon olive oil; transfer dough to bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place until dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

5) Punch down dough, and transfer to a clean surface. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, divide dough into quarters, roll the quarters into balls, and keep covered with plastic wrap. When ready to use, roll out to the desired diameter on a floured surface.

6) Place the pizza bases on lightly oiled trays or pizza stones. Because I’m using raw eggs it’s a good idea to crimp around the edges to make a little barrier so the egg does not dribble off the side.

7) Brush bases with olive oil, then add the rest of your topping except for the arugula. The arugula goes on after the pizza is cooked otherwise it wilts and looses its crunch.

8) Bake in oven until crisp and golden. It should take around 10-12 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and arugula and serve immediately.

The beer adds a great yeasty taste to this hearty crust recipe. Try it with any of your favorite toppings and I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Walldorff Brewery

Our trip to the Walldorff in Hastings, Michigan was one borne of coincidence and serendipity. Laura and I had spent several hours at Binder Park Zoo with our fellow photographer friends (who also happen to be our brother and sister in law). I often forget the valuable resource Michigan has in the Binder Park zoo, which despite being located in an inconvenient part of the state for me, is significantly more impressive than the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids. We decided to make a trip to our friends over at the Dark Horse brewery, because Eric and Sarah had not been there and (if you've been reading along) it's still one of our absolute favorite places to visit. Also it's close to the Binder Park zoo.

On our way back home, we decided (practically on a lark) to go visit our friends at the Walldorff Brew Pub. They don't bottle their own product (yet), but we met the managers at the Ludington Suds on the Shore craft beer festival. A more hospitable and entertaining pair of people I have never met; we felt it was our duty to visit their establishment and see if the food matched the beer they shared at the festival.

The Walldorff can be found right in downtown Hastings, on a quaint little main drag of road that is reminiscent of many other small Michigan towns housing brewpubs we've visited; the atmosphere is clearly focused on local food, drink, and entertainment. I've mentioned before that this is the exact setting for breweries of which I am most fond. The building itself is much larger than I expected; it's almost cavernous, with a bar and dining area set up parallel to each other and running the length of the building. The kitchen is exposed and the chefs were moving at a very brisk pace to keep up with the bustling environment, and the wood fired oven (out of which come their famous pizzas) was center stage.

We'd already sampled some of the Walldorff's beer at Suds on the Shore, but it never hurts to taste them again. The Walldorff's brewer has come up with some very interesting flavors as well as offering some excellent variations of more traditional beer. The Sundance was described to us as a competitor to Oberon, but it was significantly lighter and sweeter. A more apt comparison would be Bell's Oarsman or even Dogfish head's festina peche, although with more lemon and less peach. The stout was a deep, salty flavor – an original stout among a sea of coffee and chocolate that sit heavy in the gut. The biggest surprise for me was their bourbon aged blackberry belgian ale. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of bourbon barrel aged beers, and this one ranks right up there. The alchohol smell is strong and it lingers on the tongue, masking a subtle blackberry and sugar flavor. The malt is heavy and sweet, but there's enough hops finish that the beer avoids straying into “candy coated” territory. I can't recommend this with salty food (get the sundance for that), but it went perfectly after dinner with dessert.

Samples on the left, photographers/in-laws on the right.  And more samples.

If the beers were upstaged by anything, though, it was the food. We sampled two of their wood fired pizzas, a vegetarian pita wrap, and a pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw. This was by far some of the best food I've had in Michigan under 100 dollars. The pulled pork was spicy and tender and the vegetarian pita was full of flavor, made with fresh, hot vegetables and their signature “guacahummus.” The wood fired pizzas are what they're known for, however: my Hawaiian pizza (called “the Island” on the menu) was a perfect combination of ham, pork, pineapple, and barbeque sauce. I eat a lot of hawaiian pizzas and this was my favorite. The real winner, though, was the “highway robbery” pizza. It's a spicy pie with jalapenos, grilled chicken, with a secret, sweet/spicy sauce that is absolutely fantastic. In fact one of the ingredients in the sauce was their own State Street Oatmeal Stout!  And the garlic fries. Oh yes. These salty garlic sweet potato fries will change your opinion on what fries should taste like. I cannot recommend them to people highly enough. They are crispy and full of flavor with a salty crunch followed by that superior texture and flavor of the sweet potato. They are perfect.


The real problem with this place? It's too far away from my house to walk. But between the fantastic beer, the delicious food, the excellent service and the great atmosphere, it's well worth much more than a walk – I would drive 200 miles to go to the Walldorff. Great job on a hell of a brewery.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Crooked Tree IPA Slaw

If you’re planning a Labor Day barbecue or attending a potluck this holiday weekend, aim to keep things simple and delicious. Great food does not have to be complicated, and you certainly don't want to be stuck indoors during one of the last great weekends of the summer. With a few basic ingredients, it’s easy to create this tasty side dish you can feel good about serving your friends and family. Just don't forget to pick up a few extra Crooked Tree IPA's to enjoy at your barbecue this weekend.  Credit where credit is due, I took inspiration from Lucy Saunders' slaw recipe located here.

Prep time for this recipe is about 10 minutes, chill time is an hour, but you can also make this one a day ahead of time. In fact, I find that I like this recipe even better the next day. If you're expecting a crowd, you can even double or quadruple the recipe.

For this recipe, you will need:

1 cup raisins, dried cranberries/cherries, or pitted chopped dates (or any other dried fruit)
1 cup peeled and shredded carrots
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 cup broccoli slaw
1/3 cup Darkhorse Crooked Tree IPA
1/3 cup sweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon tamarind paste or lemon juice concentrate
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne or other chile peppers, to taste

Toss raisins, carrots, cabbage and broccoli in a medium bowl.


Place beer, coconut milk, tamarind paste, salt and cayenne in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook and stir until warmed and tamarind paste (if using) is emulsified (everything is mixed together). Taste and adjust seasonings. 

Pour the hot dressing over the slaw and toss well. Chill one hour before serving. May be served at room temperature. Makes about 6 servings.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Saugatuck Brewing Company

The fun part of exploring Michigan is that you often find surprises on your way home. We, for example, discovered that the Saugatuck Brewing Company is right on the way home from Baroda, Michigan. Noticing that, we had to make a stop next to this little brewpub snuggled close to the beautiful city of Saugatuck, Michigan.

Located about a mile off Exit 36, the Saugatuck Brewing Company is easy to miss. It's nestled along a highway where I expected there to be little other than grain feed stores, tractor outlets, and mosquitos. It took a stern conversation with the GPS along with a very sharp left turn to locate the place. Once found, though, it's a very attractive little brewpub. It reminded me of the Michigan Brewing company. . .as if someone had taken that large, nondescript building, put on some Irish-styled lettering, and plunked it down in a wooded area close to Lake Michigan. The outdoor seating was clean and pleasant and well serviced, and the waitstaff went a long way toward making everyone feel welcome.

I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the beer. My only experience with Saugatuck Brewing Company's selection up until visiting has been their Singapore IPA, which packs a hop-wallop that is unmatched by any other IPA I've had so far in the state of Michigan. (Reminder: trademark “HopWallop.”) In fact the only beers I've had that compare to the level of aggressiveness shown in this beer would be from our friends at Stone Brewing way out in California. It's too aggressive for my tastes, but if you hop fans think that New Holland's Mad Hatter is “hoppy,” you're really missing out by not trying this.

Side note, and interesting fact: as I was doing the research for this post, I learned that the Singapore IPA is named after a ghost town at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River that found itself completely unprotected from the elements after chopping all of its trees down to rebuild its neighboring cities after the great fire in 1871. The sand dunes swiftly swallowed it, and it was abandoned by 1875.

Laura and I avoided the IPA and instead sampled 5 of their other brews and one of their ciders. The biggest surprises to me were the Maggie's Irish Red and the True Scot (Scottish Ale). I don't often stumble across a Michigan Irish Red, so to find one this smooth (nitrogen was used to give it a smooth, silky mouthfeel) was rare. It was sweet and creamy, with a roasted caramel malt flavor that was more reminiscient of dessert than anything else. There was only the slightest twinge of hops to finish, but with a beer this smooth the bitterness would've only gotten in the way. The true Scot was a different animal; while I expected the deep, alcohol punch of a Scotch ale, I had forgotten that this was not a Scotch ale, but rather a Scotish ale. The taste began smooth and sweet, although not as sweet as the Maggie's Irish, with a more complex finish that blends caramel with some bitterness and a rich bready flavor from the yeast. I would be happy to spend an evening with six of either of these beers.

discriminating tastes.

The food itself was delicious as well. Laura's roasted pork was tender and juicy; the gravy came in heavy on the salty side, although both Laura and I agreed this was a strength, not a weakness. I had the Douglas Club, a fantastic grilled chicken and ham sandwich topped with melted swiss and a very original roasted red pepper. My compliments to the chef; food like this makes me question how chain restaurants manage to stay in business.

After finishing our meal, we met with the greatest and most pleasant surprise of the evening: the owner and brewmaster for the Saugatuck Brewing Company, Barry Johnson, regularly spends time with his clients out on the floor of the pub. After Laura and I moved inside to talk beer with the bartender and listen to some of the local live music, Barry introduced himself and generously offered to give us a tour of his facility!

view from the bar

Original brewing equipment on display
Brewing facility
Barry showing us the mash tun
bottling system

Part of the charm of the Michigan brewing scene is the level of comradery and feeling of belonging that one gets when working with local brewers, and Barry's excellent brewpub and brewery are no exceptions. Barry (who also happens to be the mayor of Saugatuck!) gave us a very pleasant experience and I can heartily recommend this place to anyone. It's well worth a 50 mile drive out of your way.

Our hosts, Barry and Kathy Johnson

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