Hootenanny Ribs

Hootenanny Ribs
3-2-1 rib perfection on my Traeger Pro 34 wood pellet grill

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Twelve Beers of Christmas 2014

My "Twelve Beers of Christmas" started in 2008 and has become an annual holiday tradition. Throughout each year, many beers are acquired and after deliberation and culling, the final worthy dozen are chosen. The main requirements to be on the list are to be: 1) a beer that I have not tried before; 2) a highly coveted or rare beer, and; 3) a beer style that I enjoy. The traditional Twelve Days of Christmas are followed, with the first beer being tasted on Christmas day, the second on December 26, and one every day through January 5th up to the Epiphany. Now, in order of appearance, let me introduce my twelve Beers of Christmas 2014:

 1. Affligem Noël Christmas Ale

I love Belgian Abbey Ales. I plan on thoroughly enjoying this one; it is pairing with our Christmas dinner. From the brewer: "For the season we offer you our best wishes and especially delicious Ale. Rich and dark like our Dubbel. Sumptuous and smooth like our Tripel. Enjoy." 

2. The Commons Fleur De Blanc

The Commons Brewery Fleur de Blanc is a "seasonal farmhouse ale finished with elderflowers, rose hips and rose petals." Well-crafted saisons are such a pleasure to drink. The Commons Brewery is producing some phenomenal Belgian style ales. This one should be no exception.

3. Westbrook Dark Helmet

Westbrook Brewing is making some really tasty beers in some very interesting styles. Dark Helmet is a "German-style black lager (or Schwarzbier) brewed with 10% malted rye, chocolate and Carafa malts."   

"May the Schwarz be with you!"  

4. Base Camp S'more Stout

I had the pleasure of visiting Base Camp Brewing on my beer trip to Portland. I did not try the S'more Stout on that trip and have regretted it since. From Base Camp:  

"The S’more Stout is an absolute all-star: Aromas of chocolate, coffee, fig, and smoke invite you in to a gigantic maltiness that is distinct in its smooth and refined character, with flavors of chocolate and hints of smoke mingling with rich caramel, fruit, and warming alcohol.  Top with a roasted marshmallow and you have the ultimate S’more experience!"

I'm definitely adding a marshmallow to mine. My wife may steal this beer. I'll share though. Dessert anyone?

5. Highland 20th Anniversary Scotch Ale

Scotch ales are a favorite style of mine and Highland is one of my most-liked breweries. This Scotch ale will be a delicious way to celebrate the holidays while honoring my Scots-Irish ancestry and Oscar Wong's Highland Brewing Company. Their offerings were some of the first craft beers that I tried on my craft beer journey. Cheers to twenty years! 

"Rich caramel and roasted notes blend with a subtle hop nose to create an ale suited for the finest occasions. Medium-bodied, it has a brown-red hue from a Caramel malt and roasted barley. It is brewed with the finest traditional Scottish malts and English Fuggle hops. A late addition of Sterling hops imparts a slightly spicy nose, ever so subtle."

6. Goose Island The Muddy Imperial Stout

This had to be on the list: a Blues-inspired Imperial Stout? Are you kidding me? This is right up my alley - a tribute to the greatest Bluesman ever. I will be listening to my Muddy Waters box set when I enjoy this one. Thank you Seamus.

"Brewed with molasses, brewer’s licorice, and Belgian dark rock candi sugar, The Muddy is an imperial stout with amplified sweetness for a taste as distinctive as the Chicago blues that inspired its creation."

7. Logsdon Seizoen Bretta

Another sasion to appreciate, this one from Logsdon Farmhouse Ales in Oregon, and it brought Brettanomyces with it. It's going to be a New Years' Eve party on my tastebuds!

This unfiltered sasion is "naturally refermented and carbonated with select yeast strains, producing fruity and spicy flavors that are balanced by hops and soft malt character. Special Brettanomyces yeast provides added dryness and crisp complexity to the Seizoen Bretta. Bottle conditioned with pear juice for a natural carbonation."

8. Harviestoun Ola Dubh 16

(pronounced ‘ola-doo’ and Gaelic for ‘black oil’)

"Tasty tasty motor oil."  That's how I've described the Ola Dubh ales from Harviestoun Brewery in Scotland. It is an Old Ale aged in oak casks formerly used to mature Highland Park 16 Year Old Single Malt Whisky. This one has been on my wish list for some time.

"Ola Dubh 16 takes on distinct whisky notes, perfectly complementing its roasty, toasty bitterness. There’s plenty to enjoy on the nose which is a classy blend of whisky, sweet roasted malts, earthy woodland and vanilla. The flavour is rich; loaded with sweet-roasted dark malts and coffee. And just at the finish there’s nice, smoky peat hints." 

9. Dieu du Ciel Rigor Mortis Abt

 Dieu du Ciel in Montreal brews some fantastic world-class beers. If you find anything from this brewery, buy it and savor it. The brewery describes this Belgian-style Quadruple ale as a "strong brown ale inspired by the beer brewed by Belgian Trappist monks. Very little bitterness, this beer has intense malty and sweet flavours, mixed with the taste of chocolate and caramel. It presents complex red fruit and spice flavours due to the type of yeast that is used during the brewing process. This beer is at its best only after it has aged for six months."

10. North Coast Old Stock Ale 2011

This one came to me in a beer trade in 2011 from a California BeerPal, jlozier. Yes, 2011. It had a note attached. 

"Like a fine port, Old Stock Ale is intended to be laid down. With an original gravity of over 1.100 and a generous hopping rate, Old Stock Ale is well-designed to round out and mellow with age. It's brewed with classic Maris Otter malt and Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops, all imported from England."

11. Wicked Weed Dark Arts Bourbon-Barrel Aged Wild Imperial Stout

Wicked Weed is wicked hot right now. The newer kid on the block is also the Einstein of Asheville - genius! This very hard-to-get beer came into my hands from my good friend Jason. Dark Arts is an American wild, bourbon barrel aged, imperial stout. It is brewed right up to the North Carolina alcohol cap of 15% abv. Head of Wicked Weed Brewing Operations, Walt Dickinson, uses Brettanomyces yeast to reduce sweetness and dry out the beer. Dark Arts was brewed in October 2013, and racked to bourbon barrels for almost a year. What's not to like?

12. AleSmith Barrel-Aged Old Numbskull

This Barrel-Aged version of Old Numbskull, an American Barleywine Ale, is "matured in premium bourbon barrels for up to one year to develop its rich and intense flavor profile. The result is an amazingly complex beer that balances the caramel and toasted malt character of the with notes of vanilla, oak, and bourbon from the barrel aged process." 
It has been on my wish list for a very long time. It will be sipped ever-so-slowly to fully enjoy its wonderfulness. I better share this one...


There it is, my Twelve Beers of Christmas 2014. I will also so check in to each of these beers on Untappd. I hope you enjoy your holiday beers. Be sure to share yours with friends and family. I could not enjoy these beers without the help from very good friends and the patience and understanding of my beautiful wife. 

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays! 


Twelve Beers of Christmas Past:

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2008
1. Anchor Our Special Ale (2008)
2. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
3. Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel
4. Great Lakes Christmas Ale
5. Bison Winter Warmer
6. Samuel Adams Chocolate Bock
7. Delirium Tremens
8. New Glarus Apple Ale
9. Corsendonk Pater (Abbey Brown Ale)
10. Corsendonk Agnus (Abbey Pale Ale)
11. Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Imperial Stout
12. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale (2008)

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2009

1. Thirsty Dog 12 Dogs Christmas Ale
2. Goose Island Christmas Ale
3. Tommyknocker St. Nicks Cocoa Porter
4. Avery Old Jubilation Ale
5. Rinkuškiai Missing Elf
6. Fort Collins Double Chocolate Stout
7. Ken Schmidt / Maui / Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter
8. Rochefort Trappistes 6
9. Rogue Santas Private Reserve Ale
10. Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza
11. Cantillon Iris
12. Lurgashall Christmas Mead

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2010
1. Spaten Optimator
2. Dogfish Head Olde School Barleywine
3. Ass Kisser Double IPA
4. Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA
5. Terrapin Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout
6. Depot Street The Limited Maple Pecan Porter
7. AleSmith YuleSmith – Summer
8. a. Oskar Blues Gordon / b. Oskar Blues Gubna
9. Maredsous 10
10. Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock
11. Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Fritz & Ken Ale
12. Victory Old Horizontal

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2011

1. AleSmith Yulesmith – Winter
2. Brew Kettle White Rajah
3. Brooklyn Black Ops
4. Capital Eternal Flame
5. Dogfish Head Miles Davis' Bitches Brew
6. Founders Backwoods Bastard
7. Hoppin' Frog DORIS The Destroyer Double Imperial Stout
8. Lagunitas Hairy Eyeball Ale
9. Odell Mountain Standard '09
10. Olde Hickory Bourbon Barrel Aged Bardstown Ale
11. Ommegang Brasserie D'Achouffe Gnomegang
12. Three Floyds Dark Lord Imperial Stout

Twelve Beers of Christmas 2012
1. De Ranke Pere Noel
2. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

3. Hopworks Organic Abominable Winter Ale
4. Lompoc C-Son's Greetings
5. Midnight Sun CoHoHo Imperial IPA
6. N'Ice Chouffe
7. Ninkasi Sleigh'r Dark Double Alt
8. Oakshire Ill-Tempered Gnome
9. Pelican Bad Santa
10. Port Brewing Santa's Little Helper
11. Samuel Adams Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout
12. The Bruery 5 Golden Rings

The Twelve Beers of Christmas 2013

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Thanksgiving Six-pack

(Note: updated November 2017)
Thanksgiving comes with tasty roasted turkeys, savory smoked hams, earthy and spicy side dishes, and all of those scrumptious desserts. Family and friends, good conversations, lively debates, giving thanks for the all that we have: these are the things we all look forward to every year at this time. The meal though, that is the centerpiece of the celebration. Our family Thanksgiving meal usually leans toward traditional dishes. Besides some standard wines, what craft beers would pair with each course of the meal? Here are my favorite styles and suggestions for each part of your Thanksgiving dinner.

Try a Saison with hors d'oeurvres, salad and the poultry. This beer style pairs with almost anything so it's hard to go wrong with any good saison. A very good choice is Ommegang Hennepin or Blackberry Farm's Classic Saison.

New Glarus Cran-Bic will be served during our meal specifically to pair with turkey, any cheeses, and the cranberry sauce. Perfect pairing indeed. A good lambic always complements a big meal; acidic and tart play well with Thanksgiving foods. 

Orval also pairs superbly with poultry and ham. This Belgian Trappist Ale lends a spicy and strong palette to offset and complement the smoky ham and the herb-brined poultry. It also happens to be one of the best beers on the world. 

Locally a great substitute for Orval is Alliance Brewing Company's Belgo 3.0. 

If your guests prefer something just a bit more hoppy or your bird or ham is smoky and spicy, then try Sierra Nevada Celebration to complement the big flavors. This IPA will compliment any spicy dish with it's spicy pine hop profile and nice bitter linger. Bold enough for any Thanksgiving meal. 

Now we're ready for dessert. What better beer to serve with pumpkin pie than Schlafly Pumpkin Ale? Same flavor profiles as the pie, rich and delicious. It is pumpkin pie in a bottle. 

Not into pumpkin beers, pumpkin pie, or pumpkin pie spices? Want to impress the in-laws? Then try Southern Tier Creme Brulee - an Imperial Stout brewed with vanilla beans. Big, sweet, rich, definitely a beer you will want to share. Dessert in a glass. Might blow their minds while you're at it.

After dinner and dessert usually calls for coffee at our Thanksgiving dinners. Why not a coffee brew? Why not an Imperial stout aged on coffee, chocolate, vanilla beans, and ancho chili peppers? Prairie Artisan Ales Bomb! is perfect for that craving.

Okay, maybe I listed more than six beers, but who's counting? There are always great craft beer choices to pair with every meal, especially the Thanksgiving meal. Enjoy your Thanksgiving meals and beer pairings. Enjoy your family and friends. Give thanks to all that you are grateful for and all for which you are blessed. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Bucket List: 50 Years in the Making

Today I celebrate my 50th birthday.  Where did that come from? 50.  Really? Time really does fly when you're having fun. I remember 50 being "old" when I was a kid, so now I guess I'm old. I don't feel old.  I don't act old. I don't even look old.  Maybe I'm not old, I'm just 50.

So, as this day approached, I felt it necessary to compile my Bucket List.  It is what you do when you are old you know. Things that I have not yet done, things that I want to do before I can't do them anymore, before they are gone forever, things to do while I am able.  In no particular order, my Bucket List:

  1. Beer tour Belgium
  2. Climb Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains
  3. Visit Ireland
  4. Visit Scotland and the UK
  5. Go deep sea fishing
  6. Learn to fly fish
  7. Work the soup lines at the shelter on Thanksgiving or Christmas 
  8. See, from the ground, the Grand Canyon
  9. Visit and tour Jerusalem, pilgrimage 
  10. Experience New Orleans
  11. Explore Alaska
  12. Attend the Kentucky Derby
  13. Eat hot chicken in Nashville
  14. See Reelfoot Lake in West Tennessee
  15. Attend the Chicago Blues Festival
  16. Go to a Tennessee VOLS football game via the VOL Navy
  17. Attend a Daytona 500
  18. Attend an Indianapolis 500
  19. Visit and explore Australia and New Zealand
  20. Eat some real Kansas City BBQ
  21. Experience a proper Mardi Gras
  22. See Niagara Falls 
  23. Attend a Super Bowl
  24. Do a Southern BBQ tour
  25. Do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
  26. Buy and drink a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle 
  27. Visit New England during fall
  28. Safari in Africa
  29. See Egypt
  30. All of Italy
  31. Visit Greece
  32. Eat a true bowl of Pho, in Asia
  33. Visit Canada
  34. Attend Memphis in May
  35. Learn to smoke great beef brisket
  36. Enjoy Jamaica
  37. Drink wine and tour Napa Valley
  38. See Yosemite
  39. See Yellowstone
  40. Hike parts of the Appalachian Trail, eventually all of it
  41. Attend a World Series Game
  42. at Wrigley Field
  43. or Fenway Park
  44. See Colorado - the Rockies, Denver, et al
  45. Attend Oktoberfest in Munich
  46. Eat true deep dish pizza in Chicago  
  47. Eat and drink at Schlenkerla in Bamberg, Germany
  48. Visit and tour Prague and the Czech Republic
  49. Tour the Jack Daniels distillery
  50. Visit Weihenstephan Brewery, the oldest in the world

It is what it is.  I like sports, music, good food, great drinks, beautiful sites, my ancestral history, getting in touch with my spirituality. This list covers that.  Lots of different influences on my list from many sources.  I thank them all.  

Now on to the adventure that is life. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Beachy Keen

Ahhhh, vacation.

For the first time in several years the beach was vacation destination; Panama City Beach, Florida to be more precise. Beautiful beaches, fun for the kids, fabulous seafood, a little R & R, were the main goals for the time off, and of course - try some new beers, eat tons of shrimp and find some good BBQ.

First pit stop: lunch in Montgomery, AL at Jim & Nick's BBQ. Very good pulled pork, very good sauces including a habanero hot sauce with just enough kick to it. Everyone enjoyed lunch.  Back on the road.

Arrived at destination around 5:00 CDT.  Thrilled to find out that our room has been upgraded to a two-bedroom unit, top floor corner, beach view.  Win!  Great balcony, nice clean room: this vacation is starting out quite nicely.

View from the balcony

If you build it, they will come...

My big ass big toes

Plenty of white sand at the beach, tons of good restaurants, now to find some good beers.  Mission accomplished on a trip to Kwiker Liquor where Cantillon, Prairie Artisan, Fantôme, Crooked Stave, Cigar City and other great craft beers are acquired; some for the beach, most for sharing back home.  Dinners at Back Porch Seafood and Oyster House, Margaritaville, The Red Bar in Grayton Beach, Hofbräu Beer Garden, and Hana Japan are all family pleasers.  Quickie trip to Grayton Beer Company for an impromptu tour before our dinner at The Red Bar is a nice pit stop.  Nice people, good beers.  

She is a budding model

Origins Beach Resort, our residence for the week

The one stormy day

Most of the vacation is for family and fun though.  My eleven year old daughter took several of these pictures and is also featured in some.  She is wise beyond her years and very artistic like her older sister, Ashlyn.  Tons of fun in the sand at the beach.   Lots of just enjoying the tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 

Sunset on the pier

After further consideration, there will be many more return trips to the Panama City Beach area in Florida.  Best vacation in a long time.  Remember to try new foods and new beers, seek out the local BBQ joints during your jaunt, enjoy your vacation.  You never know what you might find.  Surprise yourself, you might like it.