La Birra è Buona a Roma

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We’ve heard many a rumor about the burgeoning craft beer revolution in Italy, but we Beer Chicks don’t believe it until we’ve tasted it. So up went the wheels in LA and down we touched in Rome. There’s really only one word to describe it, and that word is ‘Wow.’  Besides the amazing architecture and the 2765 years of rich history and art, Rome has an exploding craft beer scene! Elizabeth Minchilli was our key to all things ‘birra artigianale’ in the Eternal City.  In addition to being the author of six books on Italian living and contributor to over forty magazines and newspapers, Elizabeth is one rad beer chick and, according to KCRW Good Food host Evan Kleiman, is ‘The Answer Lady regarding Italy and Rome in particular.’ Her app EAT ROME is awesome. It helped guide us through our drinking and dining experiences in Rome. It’s not an exhaustive guide, but Elizabeth says the app is ‘what I think is the best.’ These are the places where she sends her friends.  And as her new friends – here are some of the places that she recommended as the best craft beer spots for us to visit whilst in Rome.

Open Baladin We met Elizabeth at Open Baladin, and we were immediately impressed and happy.  This bar opened in September of ‘09 and is owned by Italian craft beer revolutionary Teo Musso (Birrificio Le Baladin). It had over 40 Italian beers on tap and a menu of nearly 100 mostly Italian beers. Named after the Baladin Belgian-style Pale Ale “Open,” this multi-roomed pub in Campo dei Fiori is like nothing you’ll see in the US.  You can chill out on pillows on the floor or in an antique settee upstairs, or belly up to the beer bottle-lined bar downstairs.  We were only there for ‘aperitivo’ (before dinner (and drinks) drinks) so we only had the chips.  But, oh what chips they were – homemade, crispy and salty served with house ketchup .. delizioso.  Our favorite beer on tap here was actually a collaboration between Birra del Borgo and the popular Delaware craft brewery Dogfish Head – go figure.  It was a wonderful ‘continually hopped’ Imperial Pilsener called My Antonia (more to follow on this beer) that paired perfectly with the salty fatty chips.
Bir & Fud Elizabeth suggested that we make reservations for dinner at this Trastevere haunt, but instead we just went and sat at the bar, which was fine.  The service was a bit brisk, which was also fine as the bartender’s beer knowledge was stellar and the list all Italian and all artigianale.  This bar takes its beer seriously and elevates the term ‘pizza and beer’ miles above and beyond our American Dominoes and Bud sensibilities.  We ordered the potato, sausage and rosemary pizza, which had the thinnest Roman crust and was harmonious with both the American hopped Skizoid from the Parma region (yes, of the cheese and ham) brewery Birra Toccalmatto and theBibock, an earthy, herbal and malty Bock beer from Birrificio Italiano just north of Milan.  This bar definitely had the hipster vibe.  It felt like we were in Silverlake in LA or the East Village in NYC.  It was fun to rub gomiti and drink beer with the cool local folks.  (Oh, also order the beer braised chicken wings if you get a chance, seriously.)
Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa’? From what we can figure, the nice way to translate the name of this place means “What did you come for?” Walking in, (just across the street from Bir & Fud, btw) this is where we looked at each other and said “YES!” Known as a soccer (or Futbol) pub, this totally authentic, shall we say dive, is known as one of the best beer bars in Rome.  Both the draught and bottle lists were Italia-centric, but also multi-faceted and totally satisfying. In addition to Italian beers, the draughts included Belgians, Germans, and even some American beer from California!  After talking with the very knowledgeable bartender, we had the awesomely named Spaceman from Brewfist Italian Ales which hails from just south of Milan in Codogno. This Italian IPA was surprisingly hoppy with the grapefruit, citrus and resiny pine that accompanies that. Molto buona!
Domus Birrae This is the one place we didn’t get to that Elizabeth highly recommended.  She ranked this place as Rome’s best craft beer shop. Minchilli said, “I love this place, not just for its wealth of beers, but because it allows me to veer out of my comfort zone.”  We hope to get there this week and will update this post.  But, if you’re in Rome, check it out and let us know what you think! Open Baladin Via Degli Specchi, 6 00186 Roma, Italia Tel. +39 06.6838989
Bir & Fud  Via Benedetta, 23 00153 Rome, Italy Tel. +39 06.5894016

Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa’?

Via di Benedetta, 25 00153 Roma, Italy Tel. +39 06.97275218

Domus Birrae Via Cavour 88 00184 Roma, Italy Tel. +39 06.97997570

Top 10 Ways to Get Your Dad Into Craft Beer

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If your dads are like ours, you love them dearly and appreciate all they’ve done for you, but you find them – how should we say it…a bit craft-beer challenged. Perhaps too used to routine and, dare we say, a little set in their ways, you hear the phrase ‘I like what I like’ more than you’d like.

For us, our fathers have been our toughest beer students. But we love them and we love craft beer, so naturally we won’t give up on them! We are determined to get them to appreciate our beloved drink.

So, in honor of them and Father’s Day, we offer our suggestions for those of you trying to turn Dad into a craft beer lover. Admittedly, some of the below are more tricks than straightforward teaching tools, kind of like when he told you you were going to the water park and you ended up at the Dentist.

10 – Take all of his favorite mass-produced beer and hide it. Then replace it with a variety of craft beers in the same style as his usual brew, and tell him you’re sorry but you and your friends drank all of his beer and you wanted to replace it with something special.

9 – Get your mom into craft beer first, then have her hassle your dad, she’s good at it.

8 – Write a book about craft beer and then give him a copy (The Naked Pint) for Father’s Day!! Okay, shameless plug! (Warning – Doesn’t always work.)

7 – Braise some meat for dinner in a craft beer stout or porter! Deschutes Black Butte Porter works great. How can he refuse a taste of the craft brew that make that meat so damn delicious?!

6 – Tell him you want some special one on one father-daughter (father-son) time. Then take him to a gastropub that serves zero mass-produced beer. Order the beers for both of you and get him to drink a couple of different styles. Then pay for the bill. How can he complain?!

5 – Tell him if he starts drinking craft beer, you’ll stop asking him for (cough) financial support.

4 – Take him to a local brewery for a tour. Usually if they meet the brewer behind the beer and see the passion and work that goes into the beverage they can appreciate and understand what they’re drinking. Plus they’ll think it’s cool and tell their friends all about the time their kid took them to the brewery. They may also geek out over the brewing equipment.

3 – Brew some beer and name it after him. Take that hombrewed pale ale or witbier and make a label with your dad’s name on it like ‘Roy’s Pale’ or ‘William’s Wit’- Then give it as a gift on Father’s Day. He accepted all your homemade cards as a kid, how could he reach for the macrobrew when he has your homemade gift in front of him?

2 – Take him on his favorite outdoor adventure, hiking, fishing, golfing… and bring along sandwiches and a nice craft brew in a can, like Mamma’s Little Yella Pilsner from Oskar Blues, or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in a can. Beer tastes especially great after an active adventure.

1 – Take him to Belgium! We find that when our fathers are out of their routine environment and in an exciting place they become more adventurous. He’ll want to drink local craft beer in Belgium, or Germany or London, simply because he’s out of the house and trying to relive his glory days, when being young meant trying everything.

LA Craft Beer Crawl 2! Let’s do it all over again!!

 

The Downtown LA Craft Beer Crawl is back!  Saturday, August 13th 2011!

Come to downtown LA and sip craft suds from some of the best breweries in the business!  Curated by The Beer Chicks, the even takes place simultaneously at 7 different bars owned by 213 Downtown.

Get your tasting glass and venture to 7 Grand, Casey's, Golden Gopher, La Cana, Las Perlas, Varnish and Broadway Bar to sample great craft beer all day long.  Delicious food trucks curated by Evan Kleiman of KCRW's Good Food will be there along the way to kill your hunger.

Tickets:
$49 for General Admission from 3pm to 8pm

$69 for VIP which gets you in early at 1pm (til 8pm) for super rare specialty pours of limited release craft beer and specially concoted beer cocktails.

A portion of the proceeds go to Heal the Bay, keeping our Ocean and beach clean!

Last year sold out, so get your tickets early!!!

Visit LACRAFTBEERCRAWL.com for tix and all the info you need!!

Beer and Mustard: MFEO

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There’s something in the beer universe that says – if you love craft beer, then you must also love music, dogs, pickles and homemade MUSTARD. As Beer Chicks, we have found all of this to be true. We also like online shopping. Combining all of our interests today was a little post on Etsy.com that shows how to make mustard from scratch and even talks about – you guessed it – mustard made with beer!

We’ve made and L-O-V-E this spicy and intense beer mustard recipe for sausages from Chef Jeremy Nolen of Philadelphia’s German Beer Hall Brauhaus Schmitz. He makes this spicy mustard using a delicious German beer style called doppelbock. We made it using Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock a complexly fruity rich and intense beer.

Spicy Beer Mustard

Ingredients:

1/2 cup black mustard seeds
1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 cups malt vinegar
2 cups dark beer, such as doppelbock
5 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup dry ground mustard

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine the black and yellow mustard seeds with the vinegar and 1 1/2 cups of the beer. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of the beer with the honey, brown sugar, salt, allspice and turmeric and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, transfer to a blender and let cool. Add the ground mustard and the mustard seeds with their soaking liquid to the blender and puree. Transfer the mustard to a glass jar. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

The mustard can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

(Recipe from foodandwine.com)

Also, just in case you don’t feel like making freakin’ mustard we love the beer mustards that Sierra Nevada is making. They’re doing three different mustards: Pale Ale & Honey Spice; Porter & Spicy Brown; and Stout & Stoneground flavors.

You can a pack of all three mustards HERE for yourself or your favorite mustardphile. (Our favorite is the Porter! We also used it in our Rad French Onion Beer Soup).

The Firefly in June

Luciernaga "The Firefly"  An artisan pale ale brewed in the Grand Cru tradition. Enjoy its golden effervescence and gentle hop aroma. Coriander and Grains of Paradise round out the spicy palate, melting o so softly into a silken finish of hoppiness and bliss! Make any season a celebration! 

Seasonal released in June 
6.5% Alc./Vol.

Growler + Barbecue = Genius

When the sun finally comes out of the June gloom, our thoughts turn to the obligatory summer barbecue. We know that soon our friends will be calling us up and inviting us over, stressing that we need not bring any food for they will provide the vittles, if we provide the beer. Our next thought is: Gotta get a growler….

If you haven’t delved into the world of growlers then you’re missing out big-time. Growlers are half-gallon vessels sold by breweries to be filled up with all the fresh beer you can drink. The initial purchase of the growler may seem high, but the refill is a great deal in the long run, and it’s the freshest beer you’ve ever had from a professional brewery.

Growlers got their name, as the story goes, from the sound of the carbonation escaping as the top of the vessel was being opened. Some tales suggest that growlers became popular in places where liquor was not available for purchase on Sundays, and liquor stores were closed, so the alternative drinking choice was to visit the local brewery and fill up a jug ‘o’ fresh beer.

Growlers are usually meant for immediate consumption, but if the seal is not broken they can keep for about a week. Growlers are one of the best additions to any summer barbecue – a fresh IPA or Hefeweizen from the local brew will make you the hero of the day. There’s something about summer that makes you crave fresh fruit, freshly grilled meat, and freshly made beer.

Contact your closest craft brewery and inquire about their growler offerings!

Don’t Judge A Beer By Its Color

Ok some of you (perhaps those who have perused our book..) already know this. But sadly, we still find that the misconceptions about the color of a beer dominates the minds of many a new craft brew drinker. Misconceptions like ‘Dark beers are too strong!’ or ‘I don’t drink stouts, they’re like a meal!” are overheard in bars and make us shiver….

So let’s put this to bed.

The color of beer comes from the malt, typically roasted Barley. Now, think of this barley like coffee beans. Coffee beans start out green and can be roasted to a caramel brown color and finally to a deep dark chocolate color, as in a French roast. Similarly, barley can be a pale malt, caramel color, or deep dark chocolate color as well. Depending on the roast level of the malt you use, you will get a lighter colored, caramel/amber colored, or dark colored beer.

What this does not tell you is:
1) How strong the beer is, as in alcohol by volume
2) How many calories are in the beer
3) How bitter the beer is
4) How sweet the beer is

The only thing the color can tell you is the roast level of the malts used in the making of the beer. The abv mostly depends upon the amount of malt used (whatever the color), the bitterness mostly depends upon the type and amount of hops used, the calories have to do with alcohol and residual sugars, and the sweetness has to do with absence of hops and residual sugar.

There are dark beers like a Schwarzbier that are black in color but very low in alcohol, bitterness and have a much lighter body than a ‘light colored’ beer like a Belgian tripel. The tripel is actually much stronger and higher in calories even with its straw, caramel color. Even the stout, feared by many a newbie beer drinker, can be far lower in alcohol than many other beers. Guinness has a very low abv at 5%, lower than most IPA’s, some Pale Ales, and that Belgian Triple.

You must taste before you can determine anything. Never order by asking for a ‘light’ or ‘dark’ beer. Order by taste and strength if you like, ‘I want a fruity beer that’s not too strong and low in bitterness’, or ‘I’d like a beer with chocolate notes that’s light-bodied and low in alcohol’. This way you’ll get the beer you actually want. And isn’t that the goal in one’s beer-life?

Ok, all together now:
I WILL NEVER JUDGE A BEER BY ITS COLOR.

There, we feel much better, don’t you?

This is Not Beer

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Cider. That's right, cider. We'll say it again … Cider used to be the bane of our existence. With so many people saying to us over the years, "I'm not a beer drinker, I'll just have a cider," its no wonder that we've become a little vexed and embittered towards this apple juice wonderland. But our associative recollections are not all cider's fault.

What is cider's fault however, were the sticky, cloyingly sweet ciders that we'd all been exposed to up until the last couple of years when the artisanal and craft beer world's virtues finally started bleeding into all alcoholic beverages – and more importantly, into the mainstream public's hearts and minds (and palates).  

Enter Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. We first tried this elixer at the Stone Anniversary Party in Escondido, trying both the Wandering Aengus Oaked Dry and their Semi-Dry Cider. Both of these ciders blew us away. The first was a perfectly balanced blend of bittersweet French and English apples blended with acidic heirloom apples. The second was delicate and fruity with notes of citrus and ginger, a cider styled after the ciders of Somerset, England.

So it should come as no surprise that we were thrilled when we wandered upon Wandering Aengus in Whole Foods recently. Their previously named Heirloom Blend that they are now calling Bloom, was available in a nice and big 750ml bottle and it was delicious. With a bright balance of sweetness and acidity and a bit of funkiness that was reminiscent of wild Lambic Ales, this cider was a delicious treat on a warm Spring day.

Visit the Wandering Aengus website to check in which states their ciders are available for sale. They also take web orders from Oregon, Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, District of Columbia and Florida (states with open wine shipping laws).

Fun Cider Facts:


Cider is not beer. Beer is a fermented beverage made from cereal grains, whereas cider is produced from fermented apple juice. A pear cider actually isn't 'cider' at all as the fermented beverage made from pear juice is technically a 'perry.'

Cider is famous around the world, especially in the Basque country (Spain), where they make a more bitter and high acidic cider called 'sagardoa.' Other areas popular for their Cider are Normandy and Brittany in France and in the countries of Germany, Argentina, Australia & Tasmania.

Hangover = Beer Mimosa

Glass of orange juice with an orange wedge.

So, if you’re anything like us Beer Chicks, you may have imbibed a little bit more (read, a lot more) delicious craft beer than was wise last night for St. Paddy’s Day. And seeing since March 17th is cruelly not an “actual” holiday, you’re probably working today like we are … in a kind of half-life misery, punctuated by extremely loud noises and very bright lights. Fear not fellow beer geeks for we have some very important information and a possible cure for our shared predicament.

The Problem: We’re Freakin’ Hungover!
According to Emedicine, a hangover is “due partly to poisoning by the toxic chemicals into which alcohol is converted by the body and the other components of the alcoholic drink; partly due to dehydration and improper levels of electrolytes, blood glucose, and/or B-vitamins; and partly to the body’s reaction to withdrawal from alcohol. The symptoms of a hangover are” ... hell, we know all too well what they are!

Solution: Hair of the Dog
The phrase “Hair of the dog” refers to the theory that consuming more alcohol may help blunt some of the symptoms of a hangover. Hey, beer definitely has water to help with our dehydration problems, and unfiltered beer contains B-12 from the yeast that can replace that deficiency. Of course, those mean scientists say that consuming more alcohol will probably only aggravate the symptoms of a hangover once the beer’s helpful side effects wear off… but, whatever!

Take Action: Make a Beer Mimosa!
A delicious beer mimosa is a great way to put this ‘hair of the dog’ theory to the test. The great thing about beer mimosas is that they’re tasty, they can temporarily help ease your hangover pain, they contain very healthy fruit juice and they are REALLY EASY for the fuzzy-headed to make. Sometimes called the “Redneck Mimosa,” here’s our simple recipe.

Beer Mimosa

1/2 Pint White Ale
(Like Lost Coast Great White or Allagash White)

1/2 Pint Orange Juice
(Grapefruit & Blood Orange Juices are also good.)

In a chilled pint glass, mix ingredients together. Drink and feel better.

Lift a Pint of Stout

It's finally here. St. Patrick's Day – one of the biggest beer drinking holidays of the year.  you know that drinking green beer isn't the way to celebrate this beer drinking holiday. Green beer is just the crappy fizzy yellow beer with food coloring. That's no cause for celebration! Celebrate with the "most Irish" of all beers styles, the Stout.

Stout was originally a term for a strong dark beer.  Stouts today range from chocolaty and smooth to bitter and intense.  They are often the beers found on nitrogen taps at pubs, benefitting from a creamy mouthfeel and dense head.  

Here are five domestic craft Stouts to help toast to the Irish in all of us which to imbibe this fine St. Paddy's Day!

Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout
A smooth, easy-drinking stout. Velvety on the tongue, with notes of mocha and a nice hop presence on the finish for balance.

North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Like a shot of espresso or a dark, bitter bite of cacao-heavy chocolate, this brilliant stout is intense. A perfect nightcap, at 9.5% alcohol, it'll send you home singing.

Bison Organic Chocolate Stout
Brewed in Berkeley, this sustainable stout lets you be truly green on St. Patty's Day. With notes of subtle Dutch chocolate, it won't knock you over the head with saccharine Hershey bar flavors.

Deschutes Brewery's The Abyss
Aging in French Oak and Bourbon barrels gives this hard-to-find stout a depth worthy of its name. Savor notes of bitter chocolate, espresso, molasses and licorice before the 11% alcohol kicks in.

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