Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bottled Michigan: Atwater Brewery Vanilla Java Porter

You probably know many people who want to get into the craft beer frenzy. They want to support Michigan beer, but every time you give them a sip of your pale ale or IPA, they make that face you used to make when you did shots at a crowded college party because someone dared you to do straight El Toro because no one could find any Patron and hell, it's basically the same stuff, right? And you have plenty of brain cells and I bet that nice person laughing at you will totally hold the hair out of your mouth in about an hour when El Toro starts to buck.

Eventually, it will grab YOU by the horns.

Yeah you know that bitter alcohol face.

The question is, how do you get your “I don't like hops” friends to enjoy a nice Michigan beer with you? Well your friends may not like El Toro, but I'm sure they like vanilla. And many of them probably like coffee, even if they have to doctor it up with so much sugar and cream that it's barely recognizeable as coffee anymore.

Lucky for your friend, many Michigan brewers have answered the call, and have taken to making some sweet porters for you and your friend to enjoy. On a winter day when the sun takes its leave all too soon and the post holiday depression is knocking at the door, nothing quite puts a positive spin on things than a Michigan porter.

Take Atwater Brewery's Vanilla Java Porter, for example.  The beer pours a deep brown and in shadow looks as black as an imperial stout. Hold it up to the light, however, and you'll see a deep crimson bleeding from the bottom of the beer while a subtle gold shines from beneath the thin lacing. It smells sweet and to be perfectly honest I think the beer could use a bit of bittering to balance the sweet, which comes not only from the rich malt but also the thick vanilla and coffee layers. I say that, knowing that hop-unfriendly beer drinkers are shaking their heads fervently at this article.

The mouthfeel is not as thick as I expected, with the flavor imparted primarily from the nose. There is a hint of roasted malt backed by a strong vanilla and coffee flavor, with the emphasis most certainly on the sweet. It drinks easy due to the fact that it lacks the thick mouthfeel of many dark ales, perhaps lending itself again to the new-to-craft-beer market.

More adventurous or seasoned beer drinkers may do well to sample some of the other sweet porters Michigan has to offer in this segment, including Short's Cup A Joe. That said, I have personally used this as a gateway beer for several people who turn their nose at the very mention of bitter beer. To many, this may be the first Michigan beer not explicitly intended to mimic a macrobrewery flavor that they enjoy, and we all need that catalyst to get us trying new things.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Liquid Table Announces Inaugural GR Beer Week

With a cold bite in the air and a cold pint in hand, beer lovers from all over Michigan and surrounding states will descend on Fifth Third Ballpark just north of Grand Rapids on February 25 for the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival. This year, craft beer fans will have an even better reason to spend an entire week in Grand Rapids.

GR Beer Week makes its debut this year, during the week leading up to the Winter Beer Festival. Events will take place over the course of 5 days at locations in and around Grand Rapids. Beer dinners, rare beer tastings, tap takeovers and other unique events are being planned.

While the focus is on Michigan beer as a whole, GR Beer Week is a time for Grand Rapids breweries to shine. With seven established breweries within the city limits, (Schmohz, Hopcat, B.O.B.’s Brewery, Founders, The Hideout, and Brewery Vivant), and several more on the horizon for 2012 (Harmony Brewing and Elk Brewing to name two), Grand Rapids is quickly becoming a destination for craft beer culture.

Detroit-based Liquid Table Beverage Solutions is producing and marketing GR Beer Week. Liquid Table began Detroit Beer Week in 2009 in cooperation with the Michigan Brewers Guild, piggybacking the Detroit Fall Beer Festival. This concept will be brought to Grand Rapids for the first time this year, in conjunction with the Winter Beer Festival.

“Liquid Table has proven to be uniquely qualified in the organization and promotion of craft beer events,” stated Eric Briggeman, President of the Michigan Brewers Guild. “This partnership will continue to further The Guild’s mission of promoting a healthy beer culture in the State of Michigan.”

GR Beer Week events and information will be constantly updated on Facebook. “We have several large events planned for each night of the week,” stated Barry Johnson, West Michigan Liaison for Liquid Table. “The wholesalers, breweries, retailers and consumers have been extremely helpful and supportive of our cause. Everyone understands the importance of such a vibrant, growing industry, especially in a down economy – everyone loves beer.” Head to www.facebook.com/grbeerweek for details.

GR Beer Week culminates with the Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival, held Saturday, February 25 at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park. Roughly 6000 tickets for the event went on sale December 1, 2011, and sold out in a record 3 weeks! In addition to the other GRBW events taking place, two charity ticket auctions are scheduled for Thursday, February 23. Head to www.mibeer.com for details.

About Liquid Table
Liquid Table Beverage Solutions is a privately-owned Detroit-based company. Formed in 2010 by Jon Piepenbrok, Liquid Table focuses on producing and marketing beverage events, including Detroit Beer Week, with a focus on local craft beer, mead, and artisan spirits, as well as providing private beverage services on contract for in-home and private events. The company also offers trade services, such as on- and off-premise consulting, education, marketing, and brand management. For more information, contact jon@liquid-table.com.

About the Michigan Brewers Guild
The Michigan Brewers Guild exists to unify the Michigan brewing community; to increase sales of Michigan-brewed beer through promotions, marketing, public awareness and consumer education; and to monitor and assure a healthy beer industry within the state. Michigan’s thriving brewing industry contributes over $24 million in wages with a total economic contribution of more than $133 million. In terms of overall number breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs, Michigan ranks #5 in the nation, with over 100 current licenses – thus supporting its claim as “The Great Beer State.” More information can be found at www.mibeer.com.

Press Release Contact: Jon Piepenbrok, Liquid Table Beverage Solutions (586)744-0393, jon@liquid-table.com  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Frankenmuth Pilsener Fondue

By the numbers, Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving in American food consumption (I read it on Wikipedia, so it must be true). I love chips, dips, wings, and chili as much as the next red-blooded American, but when it comes to Super Bowl Sunday, beer blitzes everything else on the menu.  So, why sideline the stuff as a mere beverage?  Beer adds an extra layer of depth and flavor to this simple cheese fondue recipe, bringing your Super Bowl party to it's A-game in no time flat.

Goes great with brats from Sobie!

It's only a little over a week away, so start planning your menu now! 

For this recipe, you will need:

2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 to 6 ounces, Gruyere, shredded
1 rounded tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup beer
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
A few drops hot sauce
A few drops Worcestershire sauce

Suggestions for serving:

Spent grain, rye, pumpernickel or sour dough bread, cubed; cubed or thick sliced and browned wursts (knackwurst, bratwurst, etc), blanched cauliflower florets, mini Gherkin pickles, pickled onions, anything else you like smothered in cheese.


1) Combine cheeses in a bowl with flour (this will prevent the cheese from separating and getting oily when added to the beer). Add beer to a small pot and bring up to a bubble over medium heat.

2) Reduce the heat to simmer and add cheese in handfuls. Stir constantly, melting the cheese in batches. Stir in a figure-eight pattern with wooden spoon so it doesn't bubble over.

3) When the cheese has been incorporated fully, stir in the mustard, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Transfer fondue to warm fondue pot and serve.  Cheers!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Third Annual Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival

Porterhouse Productions will host a “winter wonderland” celebration of craft beer, live music and local food at the third annual Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival on Saturday, February 11 at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. The weekend of festivities will kick off with a special concert featuring Blues Traveler at the City Opera House in downtown Traverse City the night before the festival on Friday, February 10.
The festival will take place on February 11 from 4-10 p.m. on the Historic Front Lawn of the Village in multiple heated tents on-site. In addition to the three main heated music and microbrewery tents, the festival will feature a silent disco tent with a full roster of local and state DJs, a snow fort-building competition among local businesses, and, for the first time, a polka-themed tent hosted by local comedian Marti Johnson featuring popular polka bands including Squeezebox and The Kielbasa Kings, dancing, authentic food and special activities celebrating the polka culture. The tent will be a promotional partnership with the Cedar Polka Festival held in the region each summer.

Acclaimed musical and entertainment acts including Funktion, beatbox champion Heatbox, The Crane Wives, Whitey Morgan and the 78’s, Dragon Wagon, Rootstand, Laith Al-Saadi, DJ DomiNate, DJ Wulf Pak (and his popular laser show), non-profit Grand Traverse Pipes & Drums and local fire dancers will headline the festival stage. Over 50 microbreweries, wineries, meaderies and cideries from across the state and country will be on hand sampling their flavors at the event, including rare and limited-edition brews. The festival will offer free shuttle service to attendees between the Village, Old Town Parking Deck, downtown Traverse City and participating hotel partners, as well as on-site valet service for Trattoria Stella guests and Mercado shoppers.

The night before the festival, Porterhouse Productions will host Grammy-winning band Blues Traveler live in concert at the City Opera House in downtown Traverse City. Renowned for their high-energy live shows, Blues Traveler is behind such massive pop hits as “Run-Around,” “Hook” and “You, Me and Everything.” Their album “Four” reached triple-platinum status, and “Run-Around” was the longest-charting single in Billboard history. The February 10 concert marks the band’s second return to Traverse City after their sold-out appearance at Porterhouse’s Paella in the Park festival in August 2010.

“Since we relocated the festival out of downtown to the Village this year, it was important we find a way to support downtown merchants and connect them with this weekend of events,” said Porterhouse Productions owner Sam Porter. “Our hope is that we’ll have a great sold-out show with Blues Traveler the night before the festival, with concertgoers eating, drinking and shopping downtown before and after the concert.”

Porter added that after-parties at downtown establishments including Union Street Station and Loading Dock were planned for both nights of the weekend to further connect festival attendees with the downtown district.

General admission tickets for the Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival on February 11 are $30 in advance or $35 at the door and include all festival entertainment, musical acts, shuttle service and five (5) 7-oz pours. Additional pours will be available for purchase on-site for $1 each. Tickets can be purchased online at www.porterhouseproductions.com or at Oryana, Blue Tractor and Left Foot Charley in Traverse City. Attendees are strongly encouraged to purchase tickets in advance, as the festival has sold out in past years. Ticket buyers must be at least 21 years old. Attendees are encouraged to carpool, use the shuttle service or walk, sled or snowshoe to the event.

Reserved seating tickets for the Blues Traveler concert at the City Opera House on February 10 range from $29-$45 and go on sale on Monday, January 16. Tickets can be purchased at the City Opera House box office, by phone at 231-941-8082 or online at www.cityoperahouse.org.

The Traverse City Winter Microbrew & Music Festival is presented by Porterhouse Productions, The Village at Grand Traverse Commons and Bay Area Recycling for Charities, with additional support from Michigan brewers, Village and downtown merchants and community volunteers. Proceeds from the festival will benefit Bay Area Recycling for Charities, a Traverse City-based non-profit organization providing comprehensive recycling services to the region and contributing an annual portion of its revenues to local charities and summer festivals. Porterhouse Productions is dedicated to supporting local businesses and creating year-round events that promote and sustain local food, beer, wine, arts, youth and merchants.

For more information, visit www.porterhouseproductions.com or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/porterhouse.mi or Twitter at www.twitter.com/porterhouseprod
PRESS RELEASE CONTACT: Beth Milligan, (231) 342-0611, beth.milligan@gmail.com or Sam Porter, (231) 499-4968, sam@porterhouseproductions.com 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bell's Amber Braised Steaks with Leeks and Gorgonzola

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  You don't need to buy the most expensive steaks you can find to get the "cut it with a butter knife" tenderness of filet mignon.  Don't get me wrong -- I love filet mignon as much as the next person, but I don't always want to pay for it.  With this little trick, you can practically turn a choice cut of meat into a prime one.  And yes, you can still enjoy a great steak even in the middle of winter.  The delectable flavor and simplicity of the amber beer sauce, tender leeks, and creamy Gorgonzola topping are all just icing on the  cake  steak.

**No, you don't HAVE to follow the salting process to make this recipe, but I would highly recommend trying it at least once. 

So, what's the big "Steak Secret"?  Coat your steaks with salt 1 hour before cooking (tip: works best with steaks that are at least 1" thick).  Yes, it really is that simple. And yes, I did say "coat". I’m talking about literally covering the entire surface of your meat so it resembles a salt lick. I know this sounds like salt-curing, which dries out meat (like jerky), but with salt curing, you use a lot more salt and leave it salting for a really long time. This short amount of time is just enough to break down the proteins and flavor the steak throughout.

Here are two regular, inexpensive supermarket steaks (Delmonico Rib Eyes, to be exact).

Season liberally with kosher salt on both sides.  Use kosher or sea salt, NOT table salt.  This will not work well with tiny tiny grains of table salt.  Again, don’t worry about all that salt.  Just enough of it gets absorbed into the meat and the rest gets washed down the drain when you rinse it off. If your steak tastes too salty when it's done, you probably didn't rinse all of the salt off.

And then just let it sit on your counter.

After 15 minutes, it will look like this — you can see how the meat’s water is starting to come up to the surface — and that some of the salt is still on the surface of the steak. After another 45 minutes, you’ll see more even more water.

The next step is to discard the water, rinse the steaks really well to get rid of all the salt.  Then pat very dry with clean paper towels so that absolutely no moisture is left on the steaks.

Then it’s time to cook the steaks and make that delicious sauce.  For this recipe you will need:

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lean steaks (about 5 ounces each)
2 leeks, rinsed well and chopped (white and light green parts only)
1 cup amber beer
1/2 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the steaks with freshly ground black pepper (if you decide to skip the salting process, season with salt at this point. Otherwise, forgo adding any additional salt). Add the steaks to the hot pan and cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, until just browned. Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside.

Add the leeks to the same pan over medium-high heat. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the leeks are tender and golden brown. Add the beer and broth and bring to a simmer. Return the steaks to the pan and simmer for 2-5 minutes depending on the thickness of your steaks and your desired doneness.

Transfer the steaks and sauce to a serving platter and top with the gorgonzola cheese.

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