Hop Sorbet

In honor of IPA Day, here is my recipe for Hop Sorbet.

4 cups ruby red grapefruit juice
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cup water
3 cups white sugar
zest of one grapefruit
1 oz. Cascade hop pellets

Mix together all ingredients except hops and bring to a boil for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, add hop pellets. Stir until pellets are broken up.  (It looks a bit like pea soup at this point!)

Chill in fridge for a minimum of four hours or over night.

Put in ice cream machine as directed by the manufacturer. (I have also done this by putting in straight in the freezer after it is cooled and stirring it every 30 minutes until it becomes slushy.  After that let it freeze solid and the sugar content makes it pretty easy to scrape it out later.)

Hey you kids...

Warning: opinionated, under caffeinated, hungover rant coming up....

Can anyone just make a normal beer anymore? We can't have just a brown ale. It has to be an Imperial Brown ale that was brewed by a level 10 Elvish Paladin deep in the forests of Elskafél and aged on the whiskey soaked body of Pinocchio. He's not a real boy and that's not a real beer.*

And the lagers, why the lagers? It is a style that grew out of the desire for a super light, super clean, and super simple beer. I swear we just had a barrel aged boysenberry hoppy imperial lager on draft. Or something like that, I was to busy trying to figure out what the hell it was.**

I remember when I got into the beer industry. A friend said to me, 'you will come to appreciate a simple pale ale and a well done lager. The extreme stuff loses its appeal after a while'. And while I'm still not much of a simple pale ale or lager drinker, I certainly understand the sentiment. I think I have reached the beer equivalent of, 'Hey you kids, get off my lawn'! Sometimes, at the end of the day, I want a beer. Just a beer. One that was brewed to perfection, with normal ingredients, the way beer has been brewed for millennia.

Fo the love of all that is holy and fermented, can I just get a brown ale, hold the unicorn tears?

*There are actually some great Brown ales out there. Central 28's Miss Mary Brown and Hourglass's Brown Beer Brown Beer are 2 that come to mind.

**Craft brewers are starting to get into lagers and those that do it well don't have to hide in behind some weird flavor! Cigar City Lager, Terrapin Sound Czech, and 21st Amendment El Sully knock it out of the lager park!

Snob, Geek or Nerd...Which are you??

So I was recently called a beer snob and it got me thinking about what really separates a beer snob from a beer geek; and what about a beer nerd.  

First let's start with some definitions...

Dictionary.com uses the following definitions:


Snob: noun, a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field. 

Geek: noun, a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.) 

Nerd: noun, an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit.

So let's look at a couple of situations and see how each group might handle it.

1. You meet and old friend from college at your local beer bar known for its amazing selection of craft beer.  Your old friend bellies up to the bar and orders a Mic Ultra.  

The beer snob expounds on how crappy the beer his old friend ordered is and explains that any self respecting person would order a "decent beer" and begins to explain how the choice he made is better than that of the old friend. 

The beer geek might initially balk at his old friend ordering a macro beer and may try to encourage him to try something a bit more adventurous. But after sampling several craft beer options, the old friend goes back to his tried and true Mic Ultra.  The beer geek respects his choice and they have a nice evening chatting about old times.  

The beer nerd reacts in much the same way as the beer geek but instead of chatting about old times they chat about how the mashing process is different for the two beers they are drinking, the history of light lagers in America and the bittering unit to gravity unit ratio of their chosen beers. 

2. You read in Imbibe Magazine that Barley Wines are the perfect beer for the holiday season.

A beer snob chooses not to drink anything but barley wines for the remainder of the holiday season because it is the "right thing to do".  The once in a year Christmas beers come and go, the amazing seasonal stouts and barrel aged this and that disappear from the shelf and the beer snob does not soil his palate with such "inappropriate" offerings.  

A beer geek may agree that a barley wine is perfect for the holidays but isn't going to deprive themselves or expect others to deprive themselves of other styles they love simply because of the date on the calendar. A beer geek recognizes that there are many different beers for many different palates and many different occasions and proclaiming one beer as being perfect is just silly. A beer geek may also go as far as believing that most barley wines need to be aged for at least six months to a year and instead of drinking them this holiday season will put them in their beer cellar with the 600 other beers they are aging.

A beer nerd, again, reacts much the same way as the beer geek but, while sitting back and enjoying a few too many barley wines, drafts a wordy letter to the editor of Imbibe Magazine detailing sixteen other beer styles that are great during the holiday season. And of course the beer nerd does not forget to add the new addition to the beer cellar to his handy dandy inventory spread sheet.

3. A celebrity brewer declares that only IPAs that have been dry hopped are worth drinking.  

The beer snob begins to seek out dry hopped IPAs, shunning any IPAs that have not been dry hopped.  

A beer geek goes out and tries many different IPAs, both dry hopped and not, and then makes the decision that they too enjoy dry-hopped IPAs more than non dry-hopped IPAs.  A beer geek also recognizes that each person's palate is different so even if they think dry hopped IPAs are tastier, that not everyone will feel the same way.

A beer nerd sets up a blind tasting panel and gathers data on how many people like dry-hopped IPAs verses non-dry-hopped varieties.  He spends his nights cross analyzing his data based on gender, age, hair color and blood type. He himself has not decided which he likes better because he feels gathering data on himself would be a conflict of interest. Instead he is still sipping on his holiday barley wine!

So then, what have we learned about the beer snob, beer geek and beer nerd?

A beer snob believes they are an expert in beer, and they may be.  They put blind stock in whatever a brewer says or whatever is written in magazines. They hate certain beers just because of who makes them and deems anyone that drinks those beers as uneducated and unenlightened.

A beer geek believes they are an expert in beer, particularly craft beer and they probably are.  They read a lot on beer and they listen to brewers and experts in the field as often as possible. Everything they learn is incorporated into their ever increasing wealth of information.  These are the people you want on your trivia team when the subject is beer!  The beer geek, though respecting the macro beer companies for what they are capable of doing, generally only drink craft beer.  They expect it to be served properly and will not hesitate to make glassware recommendations to ensure their drinking pleasure.

A beer nerd is single minded; every aspect of their life revolves around beer.  I'm not talking in an alcoholic sort of way.  I am speaking of their job, friends, hobbies, environment. Everything they do is for the love of beer.

In a way, I probably qualify for the title of all three at some point.  I might be a beer snob because although I try not to be condescending to non craft beer drinkers, I have been known to at times when people hold so true to their belief in one thing that they refuse to even try something else.  I guess you could say I am not very brand loyal.  

I might be a beer geek because I am a wealth of information on beer and I am not above requesting a specific glass at a bar.  I have even been known to ask to pour the beer myself.  I do typically drink only craft beer but I can respect the technology that goes into macro beer.  As a homebrewer I could never hope to replicate their level of consistency.  That is an accomplishment worth acknowledgement.  They have provided their consumers with a solid and predictable product.  Most craft breweries, though they may strive to achieve this, cannot deliver a product as consistent as the macro guys.  As a beer geekI firmly believe that the artistry and soul that goes into craft beer is what sets it apart from its macro counterpart. 

And I might be a beer nerd because every aspect of my life seems to have some association with beer.  I work in the craft beer world, my friends are derived from beer related activities and organizations, every inch of my home has some breweriana, homebrew or beer collection in it.  I probably own more brewery or beer related shirts than other shirts.  My car is covered in beer stickers, as is my laptop.  My vacations are scheduled around what brewery is releasing what and I follow as many breweries on Facebook as I do people. And let's face it, I do have a spreadsheet to go along with my 600 bottle beer cellar....

So what about you?  Are you a beer snob, beer geek or beer nerd?

20 Beer Festival Tips

The DeLand Craft Beer Festival is quickly approaching so I thought I would throw together a list of 20 beer festival tips.  We will start with some of the more common sense things but these are in no particular order....

1. Check the website - Most festivals have website nowadays and a good one will give you everything from a schedule of the events to a map of the venue to a list of the breweries represented.  Plan your day so you don't miss out on your favorite brewery or a presentation you really wanted to see.

2. Check the website - Yes I have listed this twice!  Know the particulars of the venue.  Where is parking?  Do tickets sell out early?  Is there going to food served?  Where is the main gate?  All this information and more should be on the website. 

3. Decide how you are getting home before going - Whether you are booking a hotel within walking distance, taking a cab or having someone pick you, put a plan in place well in advance of the beer festival!

4. Food and Water - Eat a good hearty meal before the festival and drink plenty of water during the festival.  Your body will thank you later! I recently saw someone wearing a camelbak at a festival.  Now that is someone that planned ahead!

5. Dress Smart - Check the weather forecast for the day of the festival and dress for the occasion.  Will you need a rain coat?  What about sunscreen?  A jacket?  It's a beer fest not a fashion show so dress comfortably!! Most importantly, wear comfortable shoes!!

6. Take your time and talk to people - Chat with your fellow festival goers. Chat with the people who are pouring your beer.  The volunteers at a quality beer festival will be able to tell you about the beer you are drinking and answer any questions you have.  Often times you will get to talk directly to the brewery rep and if your lucky the brewer.  There is no better time to inquire about what you are drinking.  But just be careful not to over stay your welcome!

7. Drink Less, Drink Better - Beer festivals often have hundreds of varieties to choose from.  Attempting to try them all will just end in failure or worse!  So refer to number 1 and plan your trip!

8. Take notes - Whether is with good old fashioned pen and paper or with your I-Phone, don't be afraid to jot down a few notes about the beers you are trying.  My favorite technique is to simply snap a picture of anything I want to try again.

9. Travel light - Of course you need your ID, your ticket, your cell phone and some cash but do you really need to haul around your backpack or over sized purse all day? If you want something to collect beer swag in then choose a light weight shoulder bag or fanny pack.  Your back and neck will thank you later.

10. Don't forget your ID - Whether you look 21 or 81, you must have an ID on you.  Most beer festivals will ID each and every person that walks through the gate.  If you don't have an ID you may have just wasted your money on an unusable ticket!!  And be sure it is a government issued ID, driver's license, passport, military ID.  A student ID will not suffice even if it has your birth date on it.

11. Dump and Rinse - If you don't like a beer there is no reason to continue drinking it.  The person pouring the beer will not be offended if you dump the beer in the dump bucket.  After all that is what it is for.  And don't be afraid to ask for a rinse of your glass.  You probably don't need to rinse after every beer but a quick rinse after a particularly strong flavored beer will help you get a true taste on the next one.

12. Try new stuff - Sure you want to check out your favorite breweries but a beer festival is an awesome opportunity to try something that you have never tried before.

13. Drink Local - You might be amazed at how many breweries are local.  Check to see if any of them are being represented and check them out.

14. Keep an eye on the time - You would hate to hear the last call bell before you made it to your favorite brewery.

15. Relax Don't Worry Have A Homebrew - Are there local homebrewers serving at the festival?  If so you can often find some really great and really creative brews being served up.

16. Be Grateful - Most of the pourers are volunteers, so be kind and thank them for choosing to be on that side of the table instead of your side.

17. Drink and Act Responsibly - Know your limits and don't exceed them.  What is the point of spending all that time and money if you are just going to black out and forget it!!  This also applies to knowing where things are that you might need during the fest.  Where are the food vendors?  Where are the restrooms?  How long are the wait times?  Don't wait until the last minute and find yourself in a desperate position.

18. Have a Little Respect - A little respect goes a long way.  Most festivals are put on by a team of volunteers.  Respect the time and energy they have put into the event that you are enjoying.

19. Be aware of your environment.  Someone has to clean up after you and fix what you break. Don't be "that guy or gal".  Use a trash can, pick up after yourself, and don't go places or do things you know are off limits.

20.  If It Isn't Yours Don't Take It - Or what I like to call the "Don't Be A Douche" Rule. Not every branded item is free for the taking.  You would be amazed at the things that have up and walked off after a beer fest is over.  Everything from beer buckets to table clothes to branded tents.  YES! TENTS! PLURAL! Thanks buddy, you just cost that beer rep and entire month's salary because you stole his $3000 tent. Please keep in mind that most big ticket items are the responsibility of the sales rep and if they come up missing that comes out of their pocket. Ask but don't beg, and if they say no then move on!  And just because there is no one at the table does not mean they left their table cloth, keg, and jockey box for the taking.  (I know some of you are thinking I'm exaggerating a bit but these are all things that have happened at festivals I have attended.)

I am sure there is plenty more advice that could be shared.  Please feel free to chime in with any additional beer festival pointers!!

A Different Approach to Beer and Food

I think it is established that beer and food pair very well together.  And if you are not already sold on that fact a quick Google search is all you need to find ample reading material on the subject.  So this post is not about why beer and food pairs well or tips on pairing food.  Instead I want to talk about using food as a way to introduce beer to a friend or customer that is reluctant to embrace the barley based goodness that is beer.

I do a lot of beer and food pairings and beer dinners.  I work with a lot of restaurants and bars to help their staff put together amazing events.  Occasionally I get the unique opportunity to schedule a beer pairing in an account that is more wine focused.  Their customers are not unaccustomed to pairing dinners and cheese events.  What they are unaccustomed to is having that dinner or cheese event focused around beer.  These always end up being some of my favorite events!

Last week I had the chance to schedule one such pairing and due to terrible weather and a cancelled appointment I had ample time to sit around and think.  For those people that know me, you know that is sometimes dangerous.  My ADD brain over powers my Type A personality and who knows what I will come up with next.  One such rabbit trail my brain took me on was the methodology used to structure a beer dinner.  There are plenty of ways to do it but I think they all fall into one of two categories: 1) choose the beer, build the food around the beer; 2) plan the food and choose beers that complement the chosen food.  As a general rule bars use the first method and restaurants use the second.  This is not a hard and fast rule but just an observation.

The problem with both of these methods when planning an event for non beer drinkers is the 'non beer drinker' part.  If you choose beers that people's palates aren't ready for then you lose your audience. You can contrast and balance flavors all day long but if your audience isn't ready for a funky farmhouse ale or a super strong barley wine then the food really doesn't matter.

How then, do you plan a beer dinner for non beer drinkers?

So I got to thinking about the things people like about food and the things non beer drinkers dislike about beer and a very simple similarity became obvious...flavor.  I know you are thinking, 'I read all this for that???'  But think about it!  Flavor is not usually the starting point of a beer pairing.  People start with a beer or a dish and then search for appropriate flavors to create the pairing, sometimes stretching those relationships to force a particular dish or beer into the menu.  I know.  I have done it.  You have to incorporate this specific extreme beer into the line up and you end up constructing some ridiculously complex dish, or worse yet, story to make your audience fall in love with what you have put together.  Problem is, the nuances are probably lost on the non beer drinkers in the group.

So what if you started with just flavors that are common between beer and food.  Just flavors with no ideas of what beers or dishes to put together.  The list comes together pretty fast; earthy, spicy, bitter, roasty, caramelized, smokey just to name a few.  These are flavors that the average foodie embraces.  What foodie doesn't like the earthiness of Portabella mushrooms perfectly sauteed in butter?  What foodie doesn't like the carmelization on a perfectly grilled steak?  What foodie doesn't like the integrated smokiness of award winning ribs?

So why, if they love these flavors in their food, wouldn't they love them in their beer.  My theory is they would.  But giving someone that only drinks wine or simple import lager a funky saison is a huge jump.  How do we bridge the gap?

Simple, chose the flavor and then find a beer and simple food that perfectly embodies that flavor. Here is a quick 4 course pairing I threw together using this methodology...

     Beer: St. Bernadus Wit
     Food: Spring Salad with citrus vinaigrette

     Beer: Ommegang Hennepin Saison
     Food: Sauteed Portabella Mushrooms with herb butter

     Beer: Chimay Red Belgian Dubbel
     Food: Pan seared pork medalians topped with carmelized onions

     Beer: Smuttynose Robust Porter
     Food: Grilled Rib eye steak

What is your method for pairing food and beer?