Give the Gift of Beer

As we stroll through the (sigh), mall or spend hours upon hours sifting through online stores (gag) looking for holiday gifts that don’t suck, we take solace in craft beer. Not only is it necessary to drink beer around all holiday events (you know why) craft beer also makes the perfect gift.

More fun than recycling that old bottle of wine, bringing craft beer to your friend’s annual soiree livens things up a bit. We know that the plethora of holiday beers on the shelf can be at once overwhelming and titillating, so we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite holiday brews. Each makes a perfect gift for the holiday party or for simply sipping while sitting by the fire:

St. Bernardus Christmas - Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV, Watou, Belgium: Notes of fig, clove, licorice and pumpernickel bread. Every sip brings a new layer of fruit and spice, with a fairly dry finish for a high alcohol holiday ale that will warm your soul.
10% ABV.

Anchor Christmas - Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco, CA: We look forward to the release of this beer every year. With a different tree on the label each year (this one’s a Ginkgo Biloba) the bottle becomes a collector’s item itself, especially if you buy the Magnum. Similar to a porter, but with holiday spices, notes of chocolate, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
5.5% ABV

Scaldis Noel - Brasserie Dubuisson, Pipaix, Belgium: A little bottle that packs a lot of alcohol, Scaldis Noel can be a dangerous winter delight, so drink slowly and sparingly. Delicious notes of raisins, dates, figs, and rum, with notes of spice.
12% ABV

Nutcracker Ale
Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, Missouri: A nice winter warmer with notes of molasses and caramel, with a balance of spicy, piney Chinook hops.
5.8%
 ABV

Affligem Noel
- Brouwerij Affligem, Opwijk, Belgium: Dark fruit with a peppery spiciness. Nice rich, vinous tones and brown sugar in the background.
9% ABV

Maui CoCoNut Porter

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We’ve been way into coconut lately. Maybe its because the end of summer has come and we’re mourning the end of sun-drenched days spent on the beach. Suffice it to say that we’ve also been searching for coconut in our beer! Our favorite one is a canned porter from Maui Brewing Company called (what else?) Coconut Porter, and it will be featured at Cana Rum Bar on Saturday during the LA Craft Beer Crawl!

Wait…did we say a “can” of beer? You bet your bumpkiss we did. Craft brewers are putting some great artisanal beers in cans. But don’t worry, these aren’t the cans of old. New beer cans have a lining that prevents any kind of tinny, metalic flavor from imparting on your favorite beverage. Also, regardless of what some “born on date” people say, “skunkiness” in a beer has nothing to do with how old your beer is.

Skunkiness comes from a chemical reaction that takes place when LIGHT strikes your beer. That’s why most of the great beers in the world come in very dark bottles. Imagine how much more your beer is protected if its in a can? Don’t be a can snob!

Back to the beer. Maui Brewing Company is in Kahana on beautiful Maui, where the company practices “Malama i Ka Aina” or “Caring for the land.” They use vehicles run on vegetable oil, and many other environmentally safe practices, including the aforementioned use of cans, which protects Maui beaches from broken glass, and are more easily recycled and shipped than bottles. Because of their environmentally conscious nature, we were predisposed to like Maui Brewing Company, which is a dangerous thing in our profession and often leads to disappointment. Thankfully, this was not the case with their Coconut Porter.

This beer is delicious. It’s dark and toasty and nice and rich without being cloying. As per the name, this beer is made with toasted coconut, which gives this beer a bright balance and beautiful aromatics, followed by chocolate and coffee notes. You might think that we’re describing a big beer, but we’re not. The flavors are great, but they don’t smack you across the face. It’s a waft of smoke and just a nip of hops at the end that supplies this nicely nuanced beer a nice dry finish. This beer is the perfect gateway beer to lead you from the summer beach to the winter fire!
Try the other Maui Beers this Saturday at Cana Rum Bar! We’ll also be featuring their Big Swell IPA and their Bikini Blonde Ale!

Baltic Porter

One of us Beer Chicks (the brunette one) recently spent quite some time this summer seeking out the best beer that Latvia (yes, Latvia) had to offer. Amidst the myriad of German and Czech-style Pilsners, one style stood out as a testament to the land, the sea and the climate: the high octane and delicious Baltic Porter. (So what if it was introduced by the British!)

Baltic Porters are, as the name suggests, brewed in the Baltics in the countries of Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and yes, Latvia. The style was brought to Northern Europe by the shipping of British Porters to Russia in the 1700’s.

These beers are complex and traditionally pretty high in alcohol, ranging from 5-9% ABV. This beer is usually brewed with lager yeast, but sometimes is brewed with ale yeast. If the beer is brewed with ale yeast, it is then fermented at cold lager temperatures, making this a kind of “hybrid beer.”

Baltic Porters can have flavors of dried fruit, licorice, coffee and spicy hops. They are typically less burnt in the mouth than Robust Porters and are much more complex than Brown Ales. Try out some of our favorite Porters and get a taste of the Baltics.

Aldaris Porteris: Aldaris Brewery – Riga, Latvia.
We drank many a Porteris while sitting under the Aldaris umbrellas in the lovely biergartens in the squares of Riga. Roasted coffee with notes of honey, walnuts, raisins and vanilla.
6.8% ABV.

Olfabrikken Baltic Porter:
Bryggeriet Olfalbrikken, Roskilde, Denmark. Bitter chocolate, smoke, licorice, leather.
7.5% ABV.

Baltic Porter:
Smuttynose Brewing Co., Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Part of Smuttynose Brewing’s seasonal and limited “Big Beer Series,” this black beer is big and bold with quintessential flavors of dark fruit, coffee and raisins. It’s a little hard to get a hold of but Smuttynose just announced that it will be releasing the Baltic Porter in early November, 2010. Yay!
? ABV.
(2009’s version was 8.7% ABV.)

Broadminded Beers

We Beer Chicks were lucky enough to be invited on the Sirius XM radio show Broadminded this past Friday!  We talked about beers for Father's Day, and beers for gifting in general.  We've received many requests for more information on the beers that we discussed during the segment, so here they are – for your reading and drinking pleasure.

Bourbon:
If you're a fan of Bourbon, you can't go wrong with a finely crafted beer aged in a Bourbon barrel.  We love Allagash Curieux, from Allagash Brewery in Portland, Maine.  Aged in Jim Beam Bourbon Barrels, this is a complex, high-octane Belgian beer with notes of wood, and vanilla from the barrel.  Comes in a lovely 750ml bottle.

Sweet & Sour:
Rodenbach Grand Cru
, from Flanders, Belgium, is arguably the most famous Flemish Red Ale.  Flemish Reds have the complexity of a Barolo with a sour bite of ripe cherries and complex Balsamic Vinegar.  Aged in Oak vats, Rodenbach is a mixture of 1/3 new ale and 2/3 aged ale.  This is a great beer for someone who loves craft beer already, but hasn't ventured in to the more esoteric sour ales. 

Scotch:
If you are a Scotch man (or woman), Ola Dubh Special Reserve 30 from Harviestoun Brewery in Scotland is an ale aged in Highland Park's 30 year old Single Malt Scotch.  Think engine oil (in a good way) with aromas of Heather, Honey and Smoke, flavors of Vanilla, Espresso, Juniper, and Chocolate.

Bitter Old Man:
For the bitter lover, we recommend a delicious Pliny the Elder Double IPA, a famous and sought-after ale from Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California.  Lots of Pine, Grapefruit, and a bitter Resiny bite. Big, but well-balanced.

Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks: 
This is for the person who has been loyal to one beer and one beer only for their entire life… and it happens to be that Macro brewed light fizzy yellow water.  Try giving this tough customer a beer that will more align with the style that they are used to (it's called baby steps).  One of our favorite Pilsner style lagers is Victory Prima Pils from Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown, PA.  Crisp, bright and delicious.

Broadminded
Sirius 102 & XM 155
Mon – Fri Live 2-4pm
Replays 10pm – 12am
866-267-0447

It’s Michelada Time

Today is a big day of celebration, especially in our hometown of L.A., for today is the fifth of May or Cinco de Mayo, woot! This is the day that commemorates the Mexican army's defeat over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862.  Did you know that?  Neither did we.  What we did know is that today is a day of celebration of Mexican heritage and pride.  One during which we get to imbibe one of our favorite Mexican inspired beer cocktail, the Michelada, woot woot!

The Michelada is a debated cocktail, made many different ways by many different people.  Sometimes called a Cerveza Preparada, the Michelada has come to mean a Mexican alcoholic beverage made by a combination of beer, citrus juice, spices, peppers, tomato juice and sometimes clam juice.

Over the years, we Beer Chicks have perfected what we like to think is the most amazing Michelada ever made.  Our secret?  Lots of spice, a myriad of citrus juice, toasty Negro Modelo…. oh yeah, and a shot of tequila, woot woot! (We leave out the clam juice or clamato – but we do love to pair these Michelada with fresh oysters on the half-shell!  Forget about it.)  Enjoy our delicious Michelada!  Cheers.

The Beer Chicks Michelada

1 cup tomato juice
1 ounce fresh lime juice, plus 1 lime wedge
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1, 12 ounce bottle Negro Modelo
Few drops of Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
Few drops of Tabasco Sauce, or to taste
4 ounces tequila blanco
Orange zest curls or Celery sticks, for garnish
Kosher salt, and Chili powder for garnish

Directions: In a pitcher, combine the tomato, lime, grapefruit, and orange juices. Set aside. On a small plate or saucer combine some kosher salt and a couple of pinches of chili powder. Moisten the rim of four beer mugs with a lime wedge. Next, dip the beer mugs into the kosher salt. Fill each mug with ice and pour 1/4 of the juice mixture into each mug. Next, pour 1 ounce of tequila and 3 ounces of beer into each mug. Add Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco to taste, stirring mixture to combine all ingredients. Garnish each beverage with orange zest curls or a celery stick or both and enjoy!

Serves 4.

Nature’s Cruel Joke: Beer Allergies

If you are allergic to gluten or hops, we have the greatest sympathy for you.  Food and drink allergies are tough to battle, and we have friends that struggle with them constantly. The numbers of those battling these allergies are high, and as a result, alternatives for beer are popping up at specialty stores around the globe.We hate to see you go without any beer at all, (tears slowly rolling down our faces), so here are a few beers for those of you suffering from this terrible predicament.

Gluten-free Beers:
We've mentioned gluten-free beers before.  They are beers made without any malted grain, instead, they usually use sorghum as the base.  Other gluten-free bases consist of millet, buckwheat and brown rice.  But make sure to double check any recipes that say gluten-free’.

Here's a list of gluten-free beers:

New Grist Beer – Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI: A gluten-free beer recognized by the government.; It is made from sorghum and rice, and gluten-free yeast grown on molasses. 5.7% ABV.

Bard’s Tale Beer – Bard’s Tale Beer Co. – Norwalk, CN:   A Lager made by gluten allergy sufferers who wanted a beer, this is made from Sorghum and has a floral, crisp flavor.  4.6% ABV.

St. Peter's G-Free – St. Peter's Ales – Suffolk, England:  Crisp, light sorghum ale with citrus notes and Amarillo hops.  4.2% ABV.

Hop Free Beers:
For hop-free ales, you should try the ancient style of beer called 'Gruit.' This is beer made with bittering herbs other than hops. These herbs usually consist of things like rosemary, yarrow, mugwart, sweet gale, seaweed, nettle, pine, Irish moss and heather. A resilient shrub that adds a nice dryness to beer but not the bitterness typical of hops, heather is perhaps the most popular choice for a hop alternative.  It's flavor tends to be more flowery and grassy than hops, with a smooth, clean finish.

Here are a couple of hop-free choices:

13th Century Grut Bier - Brauerei Weihenstephan – Freising, Germany:  Super complex, herbaceous, lemon, ginger, rosemary, light and tart.  4.6% ABV.

Fraoch Heather Ale – Williams Bros. Brewing – Scotland: Floral, peaty aroma, light spicy herbal flavor and dry wine-like finish.  5% ABV.

Again, make sure to double-check the ingredients in Gruit ales, they are most-likely made without hops, but if your allergy is severe, contact the company to make sure, as not all ingredients are listed on beer bottles. Also, sometimes beers made without hops are still brewed in a brewery where hops are used for other beers.

And The Beer Goes To…

It's Oscar time!  When you sit down to see who dazzles or fugs up the Academy Awards red carpet this weekend and place your bets on the winners, make it the best three (or four) hours of your life by pairing a delicious beer for each Best Picture nomination. Since this year there are 10 nominees instead of 5, this will certainly be a way to make this Oscar party better than the beer-less fêtes of years past.

We Beer Chicks admit that when Oscar fever hits Los Angeles, we get swept up in the heat.  We see all the flicks, check out the pre-show with Joan, pick our favorite gowns, and hope Jack says something extra weird this year.  But one thing's for sure, we have our winners by our sides: The best beers to accompany the best movies of the year.

So here are our nominations for best beer parings for this year's Oscar-worthy films.  We chose the beers based on name as it relates to film, flavor components as they connect to the movie's plot, and/or alcohol percentage, and sometimes all three.  And the winner is…..?

Avatar: Troegs Mad Elf Barleywine, Troegs Brewing Co., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Those otherworldly blue beings look like mad elves once their tree is ripped apart by the bad guys; us.

Up In The Air: Vagabond Ale, Allagash Brewery, Portland, Maine -  A vagabond of the skies, with no home to speak of Ryan Bingham stands on the precipice of change.  This rare, classic, aged ale with notes of Port is the perfect Clooney in a beer.

Inglourious Basterds:
Arrogant Bastard, Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, California  – We hate to be obvious but, is there really any better beer to describe the intensity of this film and boldness of the Bastards?!

The Blind Side
: Budweiser, Anheuser-Bush, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri – What can we say, it's a football movie.  This is America's favorite past-time, and probably what you'd be drinking at the game.

District 9
Brew Free, or Die! India Pale Ale, 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA – The bitter 'Prawns' are determined to attain freedom from their jail-like slum.  And this beer comes in an aluminum can, perfect for those long trips to outer space.

The Hurt Locker
Hercules Double India Pale Ale – Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, Colorado – Dealing with IEDs in Iraq takes a Herculean effort, and this big strong bitter ale is what you'll need afterwards to ease the tension.

An Education:
Cantillon Kriek Lambic, Brasserie Cantillon, Belgium – Because losing your cherry may lead to certain complexities, and the protagonist of this film finds love a bit sour in the end.

Precious:
Raison d'Etre Belgian-style ale, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Delaware – Precious is searching for meaning in a life full of suffering, a 'reason for being,' and finds inspiration in her own mind.

A Serious Man:
He'Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale, Shmaltz Brewing Co., San Francisco, California – This Kosher Ale exploring religious roots is a perfect beer for a movie retelling Jewish origin stories in a modern Coen brothers setting

UP: Drie Fonteinen Oude Gueuze, Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen, Belgium – A sour funky old Belgian style that only gets better with age.  The complexity of flavors; citrus, sour fruit, earthy yeast with a hint of oak, is a journey in itself.

It’s No Lie: Honesty Ale

Honesty, is such a lonely word….. but, thankfully, a delicious beer! Brewed in honor of our first prez George Washington (Happy B-day G!), Honesty Ale is a wild-fermented lightly sour ale from our beloved brewery, Craftsman Brewing Company in Pasadena, CA.  This beer is brewed in reference to the tall tale where George cut down his father's favorite cherry tree and upon questioning said "I cannot tell a lie, Pa; I did cut it with my hatchet" (Now, that's one honest future President). 

The Beer Chicks cannot tell a lie either (at least about beer), and we truthfully love Honesty Ale.  A very approachable Lambic style ale, this beer has a lovely round sour finish without that shocking bite found in many sour ales.  In other words, this ale won't punch you in the mouth, it will just kind of caress you, (what, too much?).  This makes it a great selection for those of you dipping your tastebuds into the world of sour ales for the first time. 

Honesty Ale is made with tart cherries from Michigan, chosen by Mark Jilg, the man behind the creations at Craftsman.  Beyond the cherries, there is an earthy wood flavor, some bright citrus elements and deep notes of raisins.  The slight presence of hops keeps this ale well-balanced and drinkable and the 8% ABV gives the beer some heft.

Unfortunately, as with all of Craftsman's beers, Honesty Ale is only available on tap around Southern (and sometimes Northern) California. In Los Angeles, you can find Honesty on tap at Delancy Bar, in Hollywood and Simmzy's in Manhattan Beach. San Diego beer fans can try some Honesty at the Toronado San Diego.  Contact Craftsman or Artisan Ales distribution company to discover where else you can quaff this delicious brew.

Craftsman Brewing Company
1260 Lincoln Avenue

Pasadena, CA 91103-2465
626.296.2537

All That Glitters: Golden Ales

We Americans had a golden day in the Olympics today!  Shaun White rode to glory defending his Olympic title in the halfpipe.  Speedskater Shani Davis (the first African-American to win an individual gold medal in a Winter Games btw) won gold in the 1000m, and Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn won gold in the womens' downhill on an injured shin! 

Congratulations to America's Gold Medal winners.  You rock!  You've worked so hard and have achieved the ultimate.  Now its time to relax.  But before you head off to Disneyland, why not have a beer?  What beer you may ask?  Well, a Golden Ale of course!

One of the Beer Chicks' favorite beer styles of all time, the Golden Ale or Strong Golden Ale got its roots in the Belgian Trappist tradition, and became its own style because it was so often imitated. A famous example is Duvel, brewed by the Moortgat brewery. Duvel, which is Flemish for ‘Devil’, is one of the top selling beers in Belgium, and has become a beacon for many other breweries, defining an Abbey-style Ale that is light golden to amber with big, but rounded flavors.

This beer style usually sports a huge cotton-like head and has soft tropical and stone fruit notes in the nose. The spice comes through in the end of this beer along with a welcoming warmth that comes from a high alcohol content.

Here’s some gold for you:

  • Don De Dieu – Unibroue
    Chambly, Quebec
    :  We already wrote about this great Canadian brewery, and this beer does not disappoint.  It's a nod to the quintessential Golden Ale, Duvel. Bright and spicy with good fruit and a boozy finish. 9% ABV.

  • Duvel – Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat
    Breendonk, Belgium:
    Green apples, bitter orange peel, lemon zest and a spicy hoppiness help make this beer the defining example of this style. 8.5% ABV.

  • Damnation – Russian River Brewing Co.
    Santa Rosa, CA:
    A hoppier Golden Ale with notes of bananas, pear and pepper. Nice dry finish. 7% ABV.

Vday: Beloved or Bitter

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We Beer Chicks would love to expose you to the beauty of beer for Valentine's Day.  Bringing beer into your boudoir is a great way to break the old predictable patterns of boxes of chocolate and Champagne (not that we'd kick those two things out of bed for eating crackers).  Also a great way to get through the night if you think this holiday is b*llsh*t.  So, whether you are deep in the sea of love, or determined to express your misery, we have the beer for you:

The Champagne of BeersDeuS Brut Des Flandres – This Belgian Ale is sent to Champagne France to undergo the the traditional Champagne Method, (Methode de Champenoise).  The true Champagne of beers, it has the fancy cork and cage and a lovey 'pop' that will keep the VDay romance alive.  Bring it into the bedroom and grease the wheels….


The Caramel AppleUnibroue Ephemere – this belgian style witbier is brewed with apple must and coriander.  It has a beautiful, fresh apple flavor without the cloying sweetness of a cider.  Give this to your valentine with a box of sea salt caramels from your local chocolatier and indulge.


The Dessert Pack – Sometimes beer is better than any dessert, especially if you want to finish off the night with a little liquid courage to fuel the first kiss.  Pick up these three beers instead of that stale box of chocolates: Wells Banana Bread Beer – like fresh outta the oven, Rogue Chocolate Stout -sweet dark chocolate, Lindemans Peche Lambic -tart, sweet, fresh peach.


A Bitter Bunch – Alone on VDay?  Wanna get drunk with some friends and rip up some old love letters?  Or maybe you wanna just call your ex at 3 a.m. and give it to him/her. Dig up your old Nine Inch Nails CD and stock up on these brews: Flying Dog Raging bitch – enough said, Stone Arrogant Bastard – a bitter dark ale that packs a punch, Surly Brewing Furious IPA – a big  bitter ale that comes in a can.


Dudes Package – Guys deserve a token of appreciation too, and what do they love more than beer? Put together these three , perfect for after dinner and in the dark…Allagash Curieux- a Belgian beer aged in Jim Beam Bourbon barrels, Foothills Brewery Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout – big bold sexy beer from, Scaldis Prestige – a beautifully complex barrel aged Belgian that comes in at a nice 13% alcohol.

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