Monday, February 6, 2012

Winey..No Wait, Beery Tasting Notes: The Winey Mom's Beery Night

I believe very strongly that you should always do your research for both sides of an issue. Dark or milk chocolate? Of course I'll research. Relaxing beach or busy sightseeing vacation? Bring them on. High heels or wedges? In the interest of research, buy them both. Beer or wine? Well, the time had come for me to research how the "other half" (IE: beer drinkers) sip. So off I went to Ladies Night with The Brewer's Daughter.

The Brewer's Daughter (aka Renee DeLuca) is an old friend and former TV co-worker of mine. I find it rather funny that 20 some years after we met, we are referring to ourselves as our favorite drinks. But at least we keep it all in the family (daughter, mom - get it?). 

This evening was devoted to craft beers. And guess what? Craft does NOT mean something your beloved little one brings home from school for Mother's Day! Nope! Craft beer is made by small, independent brewers (small means not a huge giant "corporate" beer like Michelob or Budweiser). So I had to put all thoughts of macaroni necklaces and cardboard frames out of my mind. Not a problem. In addition to the definition of craft beer, I also learned that beer has an alcohol by volume percentage, just like wine. But with beer, when you get to 8%, it's on the high end. With wine, that would be water.

First up on our tasting journey was Bell's Two Hearted Ale (7%). This was a dark gold color and had a big old creamy head of foam on it (something I never have to say in a wine review!). It's an IPA - India Pale Ale (a division of the Ale family, originally from Britain)  - and has a very strong, yeasty taste as well as a lot of citrus. OK, my first beer of the evening, and I like it. It helped that we were pairing some wonderful cheeses with it. I love cheese.

Next, from Colorado, came the Left Hand Milk Stout. Dark brown - almost black in color and smelling a lot like coffee and cocoa. Uh oh. I do not like coffee. In fact, my coffee addicted  mother once commented that I must be adopted because I didn't like coffee as much as she did (Really Mom? To jettison a child simply because she thinks coffee is icky?). But I tasted away and sure enough: coffee beer. Oh well. To be fair to this brew, most of the other ladies in the class liked it - especially with the blue cheese. I however, opted to simply eat the cheese and forgo the rest of the beer.

And in keeping with the "let's torture The Winey Mom with coffee drinks tonight" theme, up came an Ithaca Nut Brown. Only this time, the mahogany colored brew had a bit of a whisky tinge to it. Not enough to drown out the strong coffee/mocha flavor though. Too bad. My Irish roots would have probably responded well to it if it had. Again, had to pass on this one and just keep nibbling on the cheese (Jarlsberg this time).

Next up was a local offering from Chardon Brew Works: their Queen Isabella HazelNut Brown Ale (6.7%). Such a long, regal name! And such a funny bottle that The Brewer's Daughter was pouring it from. I was about to add to my beer education and learn about a growler. Think of a glass jug. Holds about 64 ounces of beer. And it's called a growler because that's the sound the escaping air makes when you first open the bottle. You need to drink fast with a growler: 3 days and it's not any good. (Not to worry - I found that most beer lovers are like wine lovers and cannot understand the concept of leftover beverage in the bottle.) This was more like it - a little sweeter, but not too sweet. And you can really taste the hazelnut.

And then they poured it: Southern Tier Brewing's 422 Pale Wheat Ale. Ding ding ding! We have a winner!! This is a really pretty beer, with its bright gold  color and contrasting foam head. It smelled like summer. Some orange, some malty taste ... zesty and smooth and oh so yummy! At this point we were munching on figs and goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto and I was really in foodie heaven.  I am told that this company also makes a ... wait for it...Creme Brulee beer! I'm in.

Out came some chili and out poured our next offering, Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (8%). Yes, I said bourbon and yes, you can really taste it. The beer is actually decanted for 6 weeks in Kentucky bourbon barrels. Whoa! In looking over my notes, I wrote down "boozy beer". It held its own with the chili too.

Dessert time brought out some of the biggest, most beautiful chocolate brownies ever. Fudge with a sprinkle of sea salt on top. Amazing. Oh, and we had some beer too. The Rogue Mocha Porter from Oregon proved to be way too bitter for me. Others in the class said bittersweet, but I didn't get the sweet part. Or the chocolate part. So I went back to my brownie.

Last up was the Mendocino Brewing Co. Red Tail Ale. A pretty golden brown/amber color. It was light and malty and had some crisp flavor to it. The brownie was happy too. Another "like" for The Winey Mom.

So, what did a Winey Mom learn at a Beer Tasting? Craft Beers are as diverse and specialized as wine. They are made with all different kinds of ingredients (barley, hops and yeast are their version of all those different grapes). You will love some of them, like some of them and dislike some of them. Sound like a wine tasting to anyone? Different beers pair well with different flavor foods (again, sound familiar?). It's whole new beery world out there, folks. And I'm glad I visited it. I'll definitely go back. But I'm not changing my name. No way. First loves rule, right?

Ladies Night with The Brewer's Daughter
Brewer's Daughter has back to pic, Winey Mom
is far right in pic.
Photo by Scott Groth of The Chubby Cook.
Oh and a note to all of my Northeast Ohio winey readers: This class was held at The Chubby Cook. Scott Groth and his team provided us with all the yummy food - and they can provide you with catering or classes or an awesome take out dinner. Check them out - they are a true local "find"!!


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