Tag Archives: beer

A Better French 75

The French 75 seems to be showing up on cocktails menus in Austin more and more lately. I’ve seen happy hour specials on them, an event booth that taught you how to make your own, and a competition between Texas bars to see who could sell the most. I’m not usually one to drink gin, but I do have to say… they’re tasty. It’s a drink that feels fancy while still being approachable and refreshing. There’s only one thing that it’s lacking: beer. We can fix that, though….


  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ounces of a light beer*
  • a strip of lemon rind to make a twist if you feel particularly fancy

*I used an Austin Beerworks Peacemaker, but I’m also a fan of the High Life in this recipe. I mean, it’s the Champagne of Beers. That must make it the perfect substitute for real champagne, no?

  1. Combine the gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Shake the bajeezus out of it.
  3. Strain into a chilled glass.
  4. Top with the beer and garnish with a lemon twist.

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NY Craft Beer Lunch at Birreria

Coincidentally, my vacation to New York City fell on the same week as Craft Beer Week. Huzzah! I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was when I found. It was a moment better embodied in victory dance than words.

I purchased the “Passport” application for my iPhone and had a list of bars, events, and discounts for the week conveniently at my fingertips. The best part: $3 pints at most beer bars. Umm… yes, please!

Perhaps the best event that we attended: lunch at Birreria with Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head.

Birreria is a restaurant and brewery on the rooftop of Eataly, an Italian market/grocery store, in the Flatiron District. It’s a collaboration project between Dogfish HeadBaladin and Del Borgo and it is simply amazing. Their brew system is, simply put, gorgeous and filled the rooftop restaurant with the sweet smells of boiling wort.

All of their beers are unfiltered, unpasteurized, and naturally carbonated and served through traditional hand pumps at the ‘perfect’ temperature.

The lunch started with a tour by Sam Calagione and the head brewer, Sam Brookes. Of course, no brewery tour is complete without a pint and so we started with the Sophia, a traditionally brewed Belgian Wit with long black peppercorns selected by Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich & Birreria Brothers.

One of the great components of the restaurant is the retractable glass roof. Outside the rain came down in sheets, but provided a welcome background to a very hearty lunch.

The lunch kicked off with a few platters of salumi and glasses (?) of pretzel sticks.

A few minutes later the cheese followed.

And then came the wonder that is the beer battered fried shiitake mushrooms.

The Antipasti was paired with Birra Del Borgo Genziana, a saison spiced with gentian root (which is known for its earthy bitterness and coriander notes). The beer had something to offer for the entire first course. It was dry, crisp, and stepped up from the wheat beer we started with. There was no shortage of pours, either… a half full glass meant a top off was on its way.

Before the second course, Sam stood up and let us know that the glasses were limited and they only had enough for one per person. Then came my favorite quote of the day: Beer drinkers spit and wine drinkers swallow, so let’s all drink at a beer drinker’s pace. I guzzled my fourth pour to empty my glass for the next beer. It was hardly the end of the first course and I was drinking the equivalent of a third beer…

The second course: MEAT. And lots of it. First came the grilled quail, beef short ribs, fried pork ribs, and smoked lamb sausages.

These were paired with a Dogfish Head 2010 Bitches Brew, a bold, dark beer that’s a fusion of three threads of imperial stout and one thread honey beer with gesho root. 

About ten minutes into the second course they brought out a few small bowls roasted root vegetables. We all had a good laugh at how the healthy portion of the lunch was more of an afterthought and left the buttered carrots alone.

Before the last course, Sam introduced Christian DeBenedetti, author of The Great American Beer Trail and the beer ‘curator’ whose name escapes me, but both shared their passion of beer and how they have turned it into a career.

The last course was a forgettable tiramisu that was paired with a not-so-forgettable Italian Beer, Baladin Super, an amber strong ale with hints of cinnamon.

To end the meal: an absolutely unforgettable beer. Sam introduced a new Dogfish Head collaboration, Urkontinent. He let us know we were the first after an initial group of 8 to try it. Over a week has passed and I’m still thinking about this beer… it’s an interesting dark ale that’s relatively light in body with unique floral and spice notes from the Australian waddleseed, myrica gale, and African Rooibos tea that are added to the brew.

After the lunch, Sam walked around and introduced himself to everyone. His excitement for the beers and food never wavered and he seemed genuinely interested every time someone would ask him about something. I’m not going to lie – I was impressed. When he stopped by our table, ee talked about different Texas brewers he knew, the Alamo Drafthouse, and the explosion of the Austin beer scene. Very cool.

I had high expectations for the lunch and the experience surpassed those expectations. If you ever find yourself in Manhatten and you enjoy really good craft beer – go to Birreria and order a flight.

Above is our table, which included @OneHopAtATime – a fellow homebrewer. I love meeting fellow craft beer enthusiasts. As Hunter S. Thompson wrote in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, “Good people drink good beer.” All in all, it was a pretty f’ing fantastic way to spend the afternoon.

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Southern California – Mini Brewery Tour

San Diego is my home. I regularly kick myself for taking the city for granted when I lived there. In my defense, I left when I was 18, but that really isn’t an excuse when it comes just how marvelous of a place it really is.

And then there’s the beer. Good gosh, there’s the beer. I could rave for hours about how amazing it is. Hell, you’ve probably heard that rave countless times. I don’t need to repeat it, so I won’t. Instead, this post is going to be relatively quick because my visit was quick (and I was too distracted to remember to take many pictures…) and I’ll try not to stray from the breweries visited and an overview of beers tasted that stood out.

First on the list: Alpine Beer Company

I grew up in Alpine, CA. It’s a small town in East County San Diego which, when I lived there, had a population of barely 13,000 people. Those 13,000 people shared one grocery store and one fast food joint, Carl’s Jr. Nowadays the population has increased and there are several stop lights instead of the lonely two that existed in the days I was learning to drive.. What else do they now have? A brewery! I won’t lie, my hopes were not high when I first visited. I was expecting mediocre at best. What I found was something my wet dreams are made of: a varied selection of incredibly well crafted and balanced beers.

Their Ned Flanders Red is easily my favorite. It’s almost perfect, which is difficult to achieve with such a complex and sour beer, but they attempted it and they nailed it. Then there’s the Alpine Pale Ale.. I drink one and find myself wishing it would never end. It’s sessionable, dangerously sessionable, because it offers everything you want in a pale ale: slightly bitter, slightly hoppy, slightly malty, and a finish that’s clean and crisp and heaven sent.

Is the brewery worth the 45 minute drive from the Coast? For the food.. absolutely not. For the beer? Absolutely.

Second stop was AleSmith Brewing Company.

It’s quietly nestled in the design district in Mira Mesa, CA between furniture distribution centers and light fixture show rooms. The crowd picked up around 5pm and was predominately men in business casual who were all in good cheer as they drank away the previous 8 hours. My favorite thing about AleSmith: $1 tasters and their chipper service never wavered even when I bombarded them with questions and pictures.

Was their selection really that great, though? For a brewery without a pub, it really was. All of their year-round beers were on tap, as well as their current seasonal releases and a few ‘you won’t find it anywhere else anymore’ beers such as the Barrel Aged 2006 Decadence, an Imperial Red Ale that was a tangy, boozy, lush of a beer that stood out against the rest. The rest, however, were quite good. I have yet to meet an AleSmith beer that I don’t like.

The third stop: Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits

There was no missing this joint, even though it was hidden in a business park not far from AleSmith. The crowd, while slightly older, was exponentially louder. People spilled from the tasting room onto the front entry, despite the rule against it. No one seemed to mind. Their walls were lined with ribbons, memorabilia, and signs. While ordering a pint, it’s easy to be distracted by the brewery that lies directly behind the bar showing you exactly where the beer you’re drinking comes from.

Their selection consisted primarily of popular and easily marketed styles (IPA, Wheat, Amber..)

My favorite was the Habanero Sculpin IPA. Rarely do chiles provide more than heat when used in a beer. In this case, the heat from the habanero was certainly there, but it was much more subdued than one would expect from a pepper with such potency. Instead, the heat lingered in the background and added another layer to an already delicious beer.

Would I go back? Probably, but it’s not at the top of my list. It’s easier to pick up a bottle or two of their best from BevMo! or just about any other well stocked corner store in San Diego County.

And last, but certainly not least: The Bruery.

I don’t even know where to start when it comes to this one. This brewery caused me to regress: little kid in a candy store after opening Christmas presents and there’s a rainbow overhead and a unicorn is my best friend style. My expectations were sky high when I arrived, but there was no concern that they may not meet those expectations. The beer later validated just that; it lives up to the hype. I was lucky enough to visit on Sour Sunday with two friends. We tried every beer, with the exception of two (Saison Rue and Hottenroth).

I don’t even know that I can choose a favorite. They were all pretty extraordinary. My top three? The Marron Acidifie was out of this world in an I can die happy knowing I’ve tried this beer kind of way. The Barrel Aged Cuir was thick and strong and full of bourbon notes that made me wish I could hibernate in a bottle all winter. And the Kriek, oh the Kriek, it made my lips pucker and want to kiss the bartender to say thank you for providing me with such amazing brews.

I didn’t even touch on the amazing beer bars! Maybe next time I’ll remember to take more photographs & notes.. Beer and good company can be entirely too distracting in the best possible way.

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The michelada is my favorite drink in the summer, particularly when the sun is blazing overhead. It’s a drink that marries beer and the savory cocktail in the most delightful way. It’s also a drink that’s best prepared in individual servings because there are countless variations. No two people seem to like them the same way, but that’s kind of the beauty of it.. it can be customized to just about anyone’s taste.

Here’s my version of it:


  • 1 12-ounce beer, preferably a dark Mexican beer like Negra Modelo
  • limes – squeeze approx. 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice per drink + cut a few into quarters
  • bloody mary mix or tomato juice + worcestershire sauce and/or soy sauce and/or a dash of maggi and/or black pepper
  • coarse salt
  • hot sauce (optional)
  • tequila (optional)
  • pour salt onto a small plate
  • cut one of the limes into eights and rub the rim of the glass with one of the lime slices
  • dip into the salt to coat the rim
  • fill the glass with ice cubes
  • pour in lime juice
  • add bloody mary mix or tomato juice to taste (I like about 3 ounces). This component can also be left out for a ‘chelada’
  • add a dash or two of hot sauce
  • pour in beer
  • top with 2 ounces of tequila
  • stir and enjoy, preferably on a hot summer day.

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Tikka Masala

This is hands down my favorite dish in the whole wide world. I’m an Indian food die hard, particularly when it comes to Tikka Masala.

Here’s my version of tikka masala – two ways.

What kind of curry?

Lamb shank, chicken, paneer, and/or….

Lamb shank: brown in a 2tbs of melted butter; remove from pan and deglaze with a beer. Use this to brown the veggies (see recipe below).    

Chicken: marinate in 1 1/2 cups of greek yogurt, 4 tbs curry powder, 3 tbs. smoked paprika (optional), 2 tbs garam masala; allow to rest in the fridge overnight.

Tikka Masala Ingredients

  • 1 diced onion (yellow or vidalia)
  • 2 tsp diced fresh pepper (jalapeno or serrano)
  • 4 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 10 ounces of beer
  • 3 tbs garam masala
  • 1 tbs smoked hot paprika (or less for less spicy)
  • A heavy handed squeeze of honey
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tbs tahini
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (can use additional yogurt or heavy cream instead)
  • salt and pepper


  • Sauté onions until lightly golden in color
  • If cooking chicken, take the chicken out of the fridge and remove most of the marinade. I typically cook over medium to medium low heat in a pan until almost all the way cooked and then finish cooking by chopping and placing in the tikka masala for the final 10 minutes of simmering.
  • Add garlic, tomato paste, chile, ginger, paprika, and garam masala. Stir frequently for about 3 minutes until mixture is very fragrant
  • Add tomato sauce, honey, and beer and bring to a boil
  • Lower the heat and allow to simmer for at least 15 minutes. If using lamb shanks – add an additional 1/4 cup of liquid (beer, tomato sauce, water, chicken stock) and place the lamb shanks in the pot. Cover and cook over low heat until the lamb is fall off the bone tender (~1 hour, but varies based on the size of the shanks).
  • After the 15 minutes have elapsed, add the tahini, sour cream, yogurt, and juice of 2 lemons to the sauce. Stir to combine and simmer an additional 15 minutes. A
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. I like a lot of fresh cracked pepper, but you may not.
  • Here is where you’ll need to judge the acidity and spice level; my tikka masala is different every time when it comes to this stage. Sometimes I’ll add more lemon, a splash of rice vinegar, additional honey, more garam masala, more hot paprika, sometimes a little cayenne, and once in awhile I’ll add frozen peas (continue simmering until peas are cooked through) – it really depends on mood and taste.
  • I serve with basmati rice and homemade paneer (make your own! super easy) and pair with.. well, what you cooked with! I also enjoy with a double IPA or the Dogfish Head Theobrama (great beer for curry dishes).

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Filed under Cooking with Beer, Poultry, Recipes, Red Meat

Birthday Brewery Tour

I’m not one to celebrate birthdays. I’d much rather have people owe me a pint the next time we hang out than have people buying me an excess of pints in one night that I’ll likely not remember. That being said, I still can’t celebrate a birthday without beer, so… what better way to spend a birthday than a brewery tour! Apologies in advance for the lack of pictures. I was distracted by beer..

First stop: Ranger Creek Brewery & Distillery in San Antonio. If you haven’t been to one of their open houses, well, I highly recommend making the drive out there (that’s assuming you’re also in the great land of Texas). It’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours on a sunny afternoon. And what’s better than beer from the source? Not much.

$5 for 3 full pints and I’m well on my way to having a great day. There was live music (a guy and a gal singing Irish rock music with lyrics about cheating on each other and drinking lots of beer), a hot dog stand, and three types of beer: Oatmeal Pale Ale, La Bestia Aimable, and Mesquite Smoked Porter. The sun was shining overhead and we found a comfortable place to lay in the grass. It wasn’t long before everyone congregated in the front of the brewery, which also happened to be near this barrel of fermenting beer with the most creative airlock ever…

From there, we were led through their brewhouse. Check out the gorgeous distiller:

And their shipping container turned bourbon store house:

Supposedly, the smaller barrels increase the wood to liquid ratio and will thereby shorten the barrel aging time. Needless to say, I can’t wait to try some when it’s finally released. (next summer?) They’re also in the process of allowing people to ‘reserve’ their own barrel of the Texas bourbon whiskey goodness (pending TABC approval). In the meantime, sign up for more information on this nifty concept.

We left Ranger Creek in the late afternoon and found ourselves at Freetail Brewing Co. The casual brewpub wasn’t anything like I expected. The beers were plentiful and offered unique flavor combinations. The ones that stood out the most – the two variations of their Figgy Pudding. It was well rounded without being too “figgy” in taste, but bordered on syrupy.. Not unexpected in a beer with “pudding” in the name, but not something I could drink more than a few sips of. The HB660 was tasty, as was the wheat beer brewed with rye.

Alas, the sun set and we were on our way to the third and final stop: Root Cellar Cafe + Darkside Fermentation. At this point, I won’t lie, I was feeling the buzz and in need of more than a few glasses of water. We ordered dinner. The beer bread was malty and delicious. The pecan crusted chicken was moist and delicious. And their Belgian Blonde.. Oh my. That was definitely one of the stand out pints of the day. Small batch Belgian beers = happiness.

Long story short, Austin definitely isn’t the only place in Texas with some amazing craft beers. I have a feeling I’ll be heading back to San Antonio and San Marcos relatively soon. I also need to venture North towards Fort Worth/Dallas in the near future. Hooray for beer inspired road trips!

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Chipotle Bison Chili with Sweet Potatoes

This chili is one of the best I’ve ever had, and trust me, I’ve eaten a whole lot of chili. It came about as part my Valentine’s Day tradition: beer, chili, and zombie movies. This year, however, I wanted to try something new and a smidgen more adventurous. The result? Big, bold, flavorful chili with just enough kick and incredible depths of flavor.


  • 3/4 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb bison
  • 1 can (or more) fire roasted tomatoes
  • 12 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 bottle less a few drinks of beer (I recommend an amber or brown. I’ve also had luck with smoky beers)
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 can black beans

Then there are the spices (the below is AMAZING, but you can substitute or change the quantity on anything and everything depending on your taste)

  • 2 tbs garlic powder
  • 2 tbs chipotle chili (or 1 canned chipotle chili & 2 tablespoons of the sauce)
  • 1/2 tbs coriander
  • 1 1/2 tbs cumin
  • 2 tbs house coffee chile rub (from Central Market)
  • 1 1/4 tbs ancho chili powder
  • 3/4 tbs oregano
  • 1 1/4 tbs mexican chocolate
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • and a heavy handed dash of each of the following: allspice, cloves, cinnamon


  1. Brown the meat with the diced onions and bell pepper (I prefer a large, rough chop). Then add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beer. Scrape up all of the goodness on the bottom of the pot. Add the spices and cover.
  2. Allow the chili to simmer low and slow for as long as you can possibly handle letting it do so. Hell, this may be the time to break out that crock pot your mom gave you years ago that you forgot was in the back of your closet. Seriously.
  3. During the last 15-20 minutes of cooking, add the diced sweet potatoes. But wait! There’s more.. throw in the can of black beans and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  4. If it’s too thick, add a little masa mixed with water, it adds a nice corn flavor that will stay mellow in the background. Too thick? More beer! Or tomato sauce. Or even water (there’s enough spice to withstand some dilution).

I recommend serving with cornbread, cheese, sour cream/creme fraiche, and fresh avocado. I also served mine with an Alesmith Wee Heavy (heck yes).


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Filed under Cooking with Beer, One Pot Wonders, Recipes, Red Meat