Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Time to Pick the Pumpkin Patch!

Well, things have been a little crazy lately, but we finally made time to drink all the pumpkin beer we've been stock piling. Mike affectionately calls it the pumpkin patch.

The pumpkin patch.
It started with one beer. I picked up a bottle of Southern Tier's Pumpking as soon as I saw it for the first time this year. I had remembered hearing very good things about it last year and that it was in short supply. I figured we could save it for a special occasion.

Next up, I happened to see Rogue's Pumpkin Patch and had to have it. I always get excited to see Rogue Ales out East and I have enjoyed most of their homegrown line, where they grow many of the ingredients themselves.

Once there were two, Mike took over. It grew to four, then six, then ten. I drew the line there, but of course two more managed to appear.

With twelve beers to drink over the course of a single afternoon, we decided we needed to call in some reinforcements. Our friend Blair also happens to be a big fan of beer, so we invited him over. 12 beers split between 3 people seemed much more reasonable.

It's a happy beer family!
Our twelve beers were as follows;

Evolution          --- Jaques Au Lantern
Rogue Ales       --- Pumpkin Patch
Weyerbacher     --- Imperial Pumpkin Ale
Heavy Seas       --- The Greater Pumpkin
Leinenkugel's    --- Harvest Patch Shandy
Shipyard           --- Smashed Pumpkin
Saranac             --- Our Pumpkin Ale
Southern Tier    --- Pumpking
Southern Tier    --- Warlock
Fordham            --- Spiced Harvest Ale
Troegs               --- Master of Pumpkins
Samuel Adams  --- Harvest Pumpkin Ale

We rated each of these beers in six different areas for a total of 100 points;

Appearance (10)
Aroma (10)
Finish (10)
Pumpkin Flavor (20)
Over all Flavor (20)
General Impression (30)

While we differed on the order of beers a bit, the top three over all beers were in everyone's individual top 4.

Rogue's Pumpkin Patch, sitting pretty.
The over all winner and everyone's first choice was Rogue Pumpkin Patch. With a total score of 259/300, it was the clear stand out of the day. This brew was the only beer of the twelve that was clear, with a nice amber color. It had honey and spice on the nose with a very smooth finish and scored the best out of all the beers on pumpkin flavor.

A Baltimore brew and one of Mike's
favorite breweries.

Second place went to Heavy Seas The Greater Pumpkin. At 10% ABV, it was the booziest beer in the pumpkin patch. This beer received 242/300 and scored the highest in the General Impression category. It had caramel and a strong whiff of booze on the nose with a creamy oak finish reminiscent of a good chardonnay.

Third place went to Weyerbacher Imperial Ale. This beer scored 237/300. It was only my 4th highest beer, but Blair ranked it his second highest and Mike ranked it his third. It had lots of spice on the nose with a hoppier, heavily carbonated finish. I think the hoppiness was probably why I didn't rank it as high.

Southern Tier Warlock took fourth with 220/300. I personally wasn't as big a fan simply because it was a very dark beer, the darkest and strongest in the pumpkin patch.

Southern Tier Pumpking took sixth place, even though it was my second highest ranked beer. I thought it had an awesome nose of popcorn, vanilla and caramel with a smooth, creamy finish.

Last place was Saranac Our Pumpkin, which was a big disappointment. It was my favorite pumpkin beer last year, and we probably went through at least four 6 packs of the stuff. I'm not sure what they did differently this year, but this beer is a pale shadow of its former self.

I took a buttload of pictures and we all took some notes on the beers, just so we could share our tasting with you. Because we care.

So there you have it; the pumpkin patch has been picked.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Eastern Shore Brew Tour

My parents recently came for a visit. When I asked what sort of activities I should plan and what they'd like to see, all I was given was "beer."

Well, beer they had.

They arrived Sunday evening to a home cooked meal. Because I am just awesome like that.

Monday, I arranged for a tour at Evolution Craft Brewing (Evo), which happens to be our local brewery and where we eat at least once a week.

Usually on half price burger night. Or half price brisket night. Or $10 burger and a pint night...

Behind the scenes at EVO
Homemade pretzel and dip sampler.
Even though we had just eaten there Sunday, we took the family for lunch on Tuesday. Since my folks had the dogs with them, we made sure we could bring them along if we sat in the outdoor seating.

The food was fantastic, as always.

After lunch, we headed to Assateague and stopped by Burley Oak Brewing for a pint along the way.

Digging that logo!

Aside from having one of the coolest logos, Burley Oak also has some good beer and a laid back tasting room. It's a BYOF place, which means they don't serve food so you can bring your own. They also have stuff going on almost every night of the week from game nights to live music.

The new outdoor fountain at Ava's Pizzeria and Wine Bar.
Complete with Evo's Rise Up Stout!

Wednesday we headed up to St. Michael's to see the sites and have dinner with Mike's folks. That gave us the afternoon to walk around and explore town. Mike is friends with the couple that just started up Lyon Distilling so he arranged for us to stop by and do a tasting. Aside from being awesome people, the dark rum we tasted might be the best rum I have ever had.

Wait a sec...if that's the camera...
How'd I take a picture?
After rum tasting, we heading to Eastern Shore Brewing, another place where Mike knows the owner. We've been a few times, but were excited to be able to bring the dogs in. It was a hot day and they aren't used to the humidity.

First, we got a flight of all 5 beers on tap. Upon trying their Hefeweizen, I got a pint. It had the crisp wheat flavor and cloudiness that I love about Hefeweizens. It also had banana notes to it, giving it a fruitiness that I enjoyed.
Flights; all the beer minus the drunk.

For our final full day together, we headed across the bridge for some car shopping. Not exactly how we wanted to spend the day, but we still managed to hit a brewery so we could continue the one a day trend.
Flights a Ellicott Mills

We had some time to kill before we wanted to try and head into the city, so my mom and I took the dogs for a walk, while Tom and Mike grabbed a beer at Ellicott Mills Brewing Company. As it turns out, no pets are allowed in commercial buildings in Howard County.... Which is complete bullshit because the wine store in downtown Ellicott Mills has a dog. Maybe it's just food establishments, but I still think that's crap. Whatever.

While there are many other breweries we could have hit, we had hoped to make it to Dogfish Head as the sort of cap stone to our brew tour, but we just didn't have the time.

I guess it'll be a good reason for a return visit!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tabbouleh flavored couscous(aka what I ate for dinner last night)

Couscous was the base of my food pyramid growing up.
Seriously, we ate so much couscous.
I work at a coffee shop. What does that have to do with a blog post about cooking food? I'll get there.

When you work as a barista, tips are kind of a big deal. The extra cash is awesome and you know you did your job well when you leave with a large roll of cash.

Thing is, not all tips are of the cash variety. Sometimes customers bring in random things. Sometimes it's flowers or maybe a gift card around Christmas, but the most random tip of all is food.

A little parsley, red onion and diced
grape tomatoes.
Yes, food.

I'm sorry, but I grew up in a society that inspected its Halloween candy for razor blades and other horrifying additions. Why the hell are strangers bringing me food at work?!?

And yet....while it took me awhile to get over my initial trepidation, I have come to enjoy the random gifts of food.

So now I will get to the whole point of this post. A few weeks ago, a customer brought some homemade Mediterranean food including really awesome tabbouleh. I have been craving more ever since.

This recipe is really a half-assed attempt at tabbouleh, but I didn't really care. I just threw in a bunch of stuff I had in my fridge but I think it turned out pretty delicious.

If you want the actual recipe, it was pretty basic.

  • 2 cups couscous
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley (this was in my fridge from the last time Mike made dinner so I used what was left)
  • 1/4 red onion
  • Several grape tomatoes (any tomato would likely work here, I chose grape tomatoes because I wanted more skin so that the chunks would hold shape better, instead of becoming mush)
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Noms.
  • Salt to taste

I also threw in other green stuff from my fridge, including some cilantro (since I was already using lime, I figured I would just roll with giving this dish some Spanish flair) and kale. I put kale in pretty much everything these days. No mint. I didn't realize until after I was home and already chopping that most traditional tabbouleh had mint (at least according to the various recipes I was comparing with on the internet).

Dice up all the veggies and herbs, cook the couscous according to the directions on the package, mix everything up in a large bowl and squeeze the lime over it all.

Easy peasy.