Right Place, Right Time

There are some beers which are tied to a very specific place. For me, this is one such beer. already reviewed another offering from this distinguished brewery, their Pemi Pale Ale. The Pemi is by far my favorite Woodstock offering, but there is a place in my heart that loves their darker ale. Whenever we go up to the Loj, a log cabin in the White Mountains that Tufts owns, it is inevitable that we go over to the brewery and get some fresh brewed growlers of their Pig's Ear Brown. Two weeks ago we even got a fresh brewed keg of the Pig, as we affectionately call it. Without further ado, I give you:

Woodstock Inn Brewing Co.: Pig’s Ear Brown Ale

Tasting conditions: It sat in the fridge for about a month before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it just before dinner after a hard day.

Eye: A dark amber brown with no visible bubbles. The head remained for a little bit which suggests a decent quantity of protein in the beer, though the initial poor did not reveal significant initial head. The bottle was brown glass with just a traditional wood-look Woodstock Inn logo, and a cartoon pig.

Nose: The beer had a nice nutty odor that was noticeable with a sniff, but not neatly as in-your-face as the Smuttnose Pumpkin.

Mouth: The taste was quite nice. There was a nice hoppy front-end followed by a pleasant sweetness on the back end with a nutty aftertaste. On a second taste, the front had a slight spice-taste (that is a taste of spices, not a hot taste). The end had a nice slightly bitter hint that really gave a nice contrast to the rest of the beer.

Pig’s Ear reminds me of nights at the Loj, the log cabin owned by my school, often before leaving for a trip up some mountain or another. Tasted alone, the beer is good, quite good, actually, but not nearly as good as it was at the Loj. That’s not to say it’s bad, but I realize that a certain amount of my affection for the Pig is sentimental. I would still highly recommend this fine ale. It is an incredible beer.

A note on the photo. I am 99% sure that this photo is the right beer. However, the Pig was one of the earliest reviews I did, and it was before I put the bottle in the review, so I can't be one hundred percent sure.

Fair travels,
The Scribe


Drink Softly, and from a Big Glass

If you look at cocktail blogs and sites across the 'Net, you can find literally millions of way to combine alcohol with everything from Tabasco to rock candy to bacon. People will turn it into a gummy bear, shake it up with ice and myriad other ingredients, or simply drink a pure solution of ethanol and water. Mixologists around the world are concerned with taking whisk(e)y, rum, brandy, vodka, gin, and a variety of more exotic spirits and turning them into interesting drinks. But why must all mixed drinks be either alcoholic, and usually extremely so, or overly sweet concoctions? Whether it is to allow children to sit with their parents at a bar, even to let college students just over and just under the legal drinking age to hang out together there, simply to make it easier for the designated driver to have a good time, or if it is only to expand our drinking horizons, we should also try non-alcoholic and minimally alcoholic cocktails.

The easiest drink is to take a soda and put in a generous splash of bitters in. Stirring's bitters are even non-alcoholic, making them quite well suited to the task. One drink I have been enjoying recently is:
Ginger Tonic
  • 1/2-1 oz - Bitters (Stirring's Blood Orange)
  • 4-8 oz - Ginger Ale (Canada Dry)
Build in a long glass with ice. Garnish with a cherry or orange wedge.
This is, of course, a very simple drink. However, we have the juices of a hundred fruits, bitters, sodas, waters, and a thousand different syrups. We can even use ice cream, as in the beloved root beer float, or coffee, or both as in an Israeli cafe au lait. We can infuse various herbs and spices into the drink as we please. An iced chai is little more than water infused with herbs and spices, and then mixed with milk.

If you have some interesting virgin drinks, either post them on your blog, or let me know in the comments. They may not help your heart, but they may help a friend.

The Scribe

(For any of you who may be scarred, I will not switch to non-alcoholic drinks. It is just a subject I have been thinking of a bit recently.)


MxMo: Cocktail Etoufee

Now without a doubt, this MxMo will break down into three distinct groups. The tikiphiles out there will whip up a bunch drinks from Don the Beachcomber, a New Orlinian. The classicists out there will be slinging milk punches, sazeracs, absinthes suisse, and vieux carres like they're going out of fashion, not coming back in. Meanwhile the innovators will be modifying more modern New Orleans specialties like the obituary cocktail, the corpse reviver, and even the hurricane.

I hate going with trends, and I'm nowhere near good enough to make something that will stand out if I were to go with the trends, so that kind of leaves me stuck without too much to go on. I mean, the theme is New Orleans, and if I'm not going with a drink hailing from New Orleans, how am I to fill that challenge? As I was thinking this and despairing, an old joke came to my rescue:

"How does a creole chef change a light bulb?"
"Well, fus', he make a roux..."

And how does a creole chef make a cocktail?
"Well, fus', he make a roux..."

And with that I was off and running. After that, I got another bit of inspiration from one of my good friends from New Orleans, the guy who gave me my first mixed drink. The drink was known as a "Witch's Brew" and I think has more to do with college than it does with New Orleans. First, you take an American pale lager, and to that you add a shot of whatever cheap spirits you have hanging around. Sounds yummy, dunnit? The last thing I needed came from a previous post on chocolate pairing, where I thought to use a solid, food ingredient, as a "virtual ingredient" in the cocktail.

With my three bits of inspiration together, I was ready to go. The first step, was a roux. A roux, for those of you who aren't familiar, is mixture of roughly half fat and half flour that is cooked over medium heat. It is the mother the French "mother sauces" and thickens everything from gravy to gumbo...to cocktails. That was my hope was to get a nice thickening effect to get some extra mouth feel. Meanwhile, the proteins in the flour would act the same way egg or milk proteins do in egg and milk drinks. The longer you cook a roux, the more flavor you get out of it, but the less it can thicken whatever liquid you add it to. You start out with a white or blonde roux, and you progress in slowly darkening color until you get a "black roux," which is when your roux burns and becomes useless. In Creole cuisine, the tradition is to use what is known as a brick roux which is where you cook your roux until it is brick red. Unfortunately, that's about a shade shy of the black roux, and thus very easy to overcook. Instead, I went with a peanut butter roux, which was cooked until the color you can see at the right.

I had prepared a beer syrup in advance, using a cup of decarbonized beer, and a packed cup of brown sugar for reasons that will soon be apparent. I slowly added the cold syrup to the hot roux, stirring the entire time until it was all combined. The flour, in addition to everything else, also acted as an emulsifier. With a roux made up of a quarter cup butter, and a quarter cup flour, the whole mess came to a cup and a half of roux-thickened beer syrup.

I paired a chocolate chip shortbread with my cocktail. This used half of the roux-thickened beer syrup (3/4 c.), one and seven eighths of a cup of butter, two cups of brown sugar, which were mixed together, and then three cups of flour and a generous amount of chopped chocolate was added in. The mixture was poured into a sheet pan to bake for twenty minutes, then cut into finger-sized pieces.

All that was left was to assemble my cocktail:
The Witch's Broux Cocktail
  • 3 pt. (2.25 oz.) - Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
  • 1 pt. (.75 oz.) - Roux Thickened Beer Syrup (see above)
  • 7-8 dashes - Aromatic Bitters (Peychoud's)
Shake whiskey and syrup in a shaker and strain into an short tumbler full of ice. Spread thickened syrup over a piece of shortbread, and serve next to the cocktail. Garnish with a brandied cherry, and sprinkle bitters gently on top, instructing the drinker to give a stir before drinking.

While I did not have any cherries handy, the layering of the bitters on top gives the drink a pleasant appearance. In addition, by putting the bitters in at the end, the aroma of the bitters fills the glass, which is a pleasant bonus. I find that cherries tend to work as an excellent garnish for anything containing Peychoud's bitters as it has some very pleasant cherry notes. It would be interesting to cut back a tad on the syrup, or at least its sweetness, and coat the glass in marascino to accent the cherry notes. Even without any actual cherries, this cocktail has a pleasant cherry taste, which plays quite nicely with the fruitiness of the summer ale I used for the syrup, and especially with the apple notes in the rye. My only other question for this cocktail was whether I should call it the "Witch's Broux cocktail" after one of the key inspirations or whether I should call it the "Cocktail Etoufee" as etoufee is a roux with onions, pepper, and seafood cooked in it. My thought was to reserve the cocktail etoufee for more of a savory cocktail, but let me know what you think in the comments.

Be sure to check out the wrapup and also my previous entry, which I put up when I heard MxMo was delayed.

I bid you good drinking,
The Scribe


My Bowl Floweth Over

Last night we celebrated my housemate's 21st birthday in the appropriate style with lots of carrying on and suchlike. While we offered a full, if low end, bar to our guests, the focus was on a rum and sparkling wine punch.
Pomegranate Birthday Puncheon
  • 3 L - Sparkling Wine (We used J. Roget which is "methode moderne" or gas injected. Please use better wine.)
  • 1 L - Rum (Bacardi works, but something like 10 Cane or a good gold would work better.)
  • 1 L - Pomegranate Juice (Bottled is, of course fine, but fresh is always better.)
  • 1/3 L (1.5 c.) - Simple or invert syrup
  • 1/4 L (1 c.) - Fresh lime juice
  • 1/8 L (1/2 c.) - Fresh orange juice
  • 25 dashes - Peychoud's bitters
Mix together in a large punch bowl. Chill with very large ice cubes (freeze water in a bowl) and garnish with cut up fruit from the juice, and pomegranate seeds if available.
While this punch was entirely drinkable, and masks a pretty massive kick behind a somewhat sweet fruit taste, it wasn't wonderful. For a start, the sparkling wine being cheap American stuff (even worse than Andre), not only failed to add to the taste but, indeed, subtracted from it. In addition, since sparkling wine that gets its bubbles from gas injection holds its bubbles much worse than either the methode tradicionale or the metodo Italiano, the hoped for bubbly effect was not present. My reworking of the recipe was:
Scrivenal Sparkling Pomegranate Puncheon
  • 8 pt (1.5 L) - Sparkling Wine (Cava or prosecco would probably be better than Champagne.)
  • 4 pt (750 mL) - Gold Rum (Mount Gay works well.)
  • 2 pt. (1.5 c.) - Lime juice
  • 1 pt. (3/4 c.)- Grenadine (Use the real stuff from pomegranate juice. If you find this a bit sweet, cut the grenadine with pomegranate juice reduced by half.)
  • 1 pt. (3/4 c.)- Pomegranate liqueur (Pama works, but so would DeKuyper.)
  • 1 dash/oz. rum (25 dashes) - Peychoud's bitters
Stir together with a generous pinch each of cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a punch bowl. Garnish with lime wedges, spent fruit shells, pomegranate seeds if available, and fruits of the season.
This, to my mind, is a much better punch, and at 27% alcohol packs an even stronger punch, while still tasting even better. In addition, by using the grenadine, or reduced juice, the taste of the juice comes through much stronger. The sweetness can be easily adjusted by mixing all of the ingredients together except the grenadine, then add the grenadine slowly, tasting as you go. Once you reach the ideal sweetness, make up the difference with pomegranate juice reduced by half. I find pomegranate juice only a bit on the sweet side, so it gives flavour without affecting the balance of the drink quite as much as grenadine does.

May good drinks and merriness follow you all the days of your life,
The Scribe


Keep it Simple, Stupid

Okay guys, I hate to do this, but I have read one too many recipes which call for orange infused vanilla simple syrup with a hint of bacon. While there is nothing wrong with such an ingredient as such (though it is a bit hard to make), that isn't "simple syrup." Simple syrup or sugar syrup, also known to chefs as cottage syrup, has two ingredients: sugar and water. If you want to make it slightly more complex, you can add gum arabic, though technically, that gomme syrup, or a drop of lemon juice, which is technically invert syrup if you cook it long enough. If you add vanilla to it, you have vanilla syrup, if you add orange to the picture, you have orange syrup, and so on. It's kind of like a martini. Martini's have up to four ingredients: Gin, vodka, fortified wine, and possibly bitters. Just as a "sour apple martini cocktail" is not a martini even if it may be a cocktail, so too is a "sour apple simple syrup" not simple, even if it is a syrup.

I will give you infused simple syrups if you must. Technically, I guess if you used vanilla or some other sort of infused sugar to make a simple syrup, that could be considered an infused simple syrup since you are still sticking to the sugar, water, and nothing else formula of simple syrup.

Since you all probably want to get something useful out of this post, I just thought I would pass along a cool trick I got from a baker roommate of mine. First however, I just want to clear up some terminology as it relates to this blog:
  • Simple syrup refers to one part granulated sugar, one part water by volume.
  • Rich syrup refers to two parts granulated sugar, one part water by volume.
  • Brown syrup refers to one packed part dark brown or raw sugar, on part water by volume.
  • Rock or rock candy syrup refers to a supersaturated sugar-water solution.
  • I probably won't be using gomme syrup, but if I ever do it refers to a syrup that requires an emulsifier to hold together.
  • If I modify any of the above sugar types with "invert" it means that I used the aforementioned quantities and used invert sugar to make it.
Which leads me to my little tip. Invert sugar is wonderful stuff. It's effectively what honey is made out of and is sweeter per unit volume than an equivalent syrup, thus being healthier, and, even better, it keeps at room temperature for about six months. Sound good? It's not too hard to make. Start with whatever syrup you like, and add just a touch of lemon juice or other acid to it. A touch. We're talking about one percent here, which is about half a teaspoon per cup. Let it cook for about twenty minutes, and whamo presto: invert syrup. It was strongly recomended to me that I allow the mixture to cool without touching the pan, as jostling could start the crystalization if you aren't careful. Incidentally, looking this up online says that heat alone will slightly invert the sugar. Alternately, if you work somewhere where you have a pastry chef available, just ask them.

Sweet times,
The Scribe


Welcome to My Life...

So I get home from the liquor store and read the review of orange bitters over at Oh Gosh! and discover the Stirrings blood orange bitters I had bought weren't really cocktail bitters at all, though I suspect they'll go nicely in soda, and a bitter soda is another treat I enjoy. Anywho, I headed back to Downtown today and picked up a bottle of Regan's #6, and discovered that between when I went in on Monday and when I was there today, they had also gotten in a shipment of Peychoud's. Anyway, now I'm well stocked up with bitters. Next subject to pursue: Getting my modifiers up to snuff. I need some vermouth, some triple sec, and maybe some St. Germain or Chartruse, and possibly even a bottle of le muse verte.

Incidentally, looking at Regan's and Peychoud's bitters together, I noticed that they are almost identically packaged. The bottles are the same, they both have a stylized letter on the plastic seal, the label even has the same textured feel. I wonder if they are commonly made or bottled. If you know anything, please drop it in the comments.


A Bitter Victory

About six months ago I went to my better spirits shop looking for bitters (yes, I have three package stores, my cheapie, Hillside Liquors, with crappy selection but good prices, my better spirits shop, Downtown Wine & Spirits, which is more expensive but has whatever you are looking for whether it's premium spirits, exotic beers, or wines, and my big box, Kappy's which is pretty far, but has the advantage of being cheap and having a pretty decent selection, but I digress) and they had one, count it one bottle of Angostura bitters collecting dust on the shelves behind the counter. When I went there the other day looking for Peychoud's bitters, they had expanded their selection to Regan's #6 and Stirrings...and they said they were looking into more! They recently remodeled and now every concievable cocktaily treat is within easy read, from arrack (and arak) to ahm....zwetchenswasser. Actually, I somehow doubt they have zwetchenswasser, since CocktaiDB says it's hard to find outside of Germany, but you get the point.

Anywho, I just thought I would share this news about the local occurance of this national phenomenon.

Best of health!
The Scribe


An Out of This World Liqueur

For those who are fans of Alton Brown and Good Eats as much as I am, the idea that pomegranate is an alien fruit comes as little shock. For the rest of you, and you are missing out, it still shouldn't be a big shock. Pomegranates are pretty fussy things, and kinda weird. Regardless, for the dinner I did at the beginning of the month, pomegranates were one of the key fruits. I used them in all sorts of applications, and I picked up a bottle of Pama to help in both cooking and whipping up a cocktail. We already covered the cocktail, well, mixed drink, as well as the banquet. However, here I have the liqueur. Apropos of last night's post on reviewing, since I did this review quickly in the midst of a very busy day, I just used a simple juice glass:

Pama: Pomegranate Liqueur
Tasting Conditions: I had a sip of this to taste it before making cocktails and cooking with it. I was fairly rushed as I had a lot of food to prepare. I had it warm, fresh from the store, and in a juice glass of about six ounces.

Eye: A crimson red liqueur that is gorgeously presented in the bottle. A square bottle tapering downwards elegantly presents the contents as a top shelf liqueur. In the glass, thick legs hint at a sweet digestif.

Nose: The nose is slightly mellow pomegranate, unadulterated by much else. However, there is barely any burn in the smell hinting at a very smooth dram.

Mouth: The taste is pure pomegranate with a bit of almost artificial sweet and sour on the back, and just a hint of alcoholic burn. A second sip makes the alcoholic burn and the artificial chemicaliness shine through more. There is very little complexity. Honestly, this could just by pomegranate syrup with a shot of vodka.

Conclusion: While I was tasting it, I happened to have some pomegranate juice next to me that I had reduced by half. The two were absolutely identical except for the slight chemical taste and a bit of alcoholicitiy. Now, I will suggest that you can get a bottle of overproof vodka or rum and a bottle of pomegranate juice (ubiquitous under the POM label), reduce the juice by half, and add it in a proportion of about three parts reduced juice to one part overproof spirit, and you probably have the same thing at two thirds the price for half again the volume.


Reviewing Spirits, Beer, Wine, and Some Miscelania

I thought that I would put forth my review methodology and some things I think are important in reviewing. I do this both so you all have a standard by which to judge my reviews and so that the internet community can give me suggestions on to how to improve my process.

First off, the glass. I currently use a Ministry of Rum official tasting glass for my reviews. It is a tulip shaped glass of approximately six ounces. Older reviews used a snifter of approximately eight ounces. Both are pictured to the right. Unfortunately, while I lived in a dorm, my care for my glassware wasn't incredibly good. While I did clean glasses before each review, they were allowed to air dry. However, the only spirits that were reviewed in my room were the Pampero Aniversario, the Bogle port, the Gosling's Black Seal and the Old Bushmills. Since then, I clean my glassware meticulously, and hand dry and polish it before each review. For beers, I try and use a British-style straight sided pint glass. I alternate between a sixteen and twenty-two ounce option. Obviously for larger beers, I use a larger glass.

Second off, the atmosphere. Since I believe that atmosphere and mood can play a huge role in how the spirit is reviewed, I do try and make a note of any especially relevant situations, be they health issues, mood issues, or whatever. I usually drink my drinks around ten or eleven in the evening, and almost always do so at my computer. I suppose I ought to make a standard tasting playlist, but that seems a little excessive. I also try and make note of anything special about the bottle. For example, whether it is new, or has had time to oxidize.

Third is my procedure. I usually clean the glass and grab an ice cube, and toss the ice cube in a clean auxiliary glass. Ice in our house doesn't tend to last a week, but I make sure that any ice is only a few days old at most, so it is pretty aroma free. Then I come upstairs to my room, pour out between an ounce and an ounce and a half, and take pictures, usually with both glass and bottle. Then I start writing the review. First I write down any relevant tasting conditions, then I describe the bottle, the colour of the spirit, and give the glass a swirl. I am looking for legs here, the dribbling down of the remnant spirit. I am not sure exactly what legs signify, and depending on who you read, they can suggest anything from the sweetness, to the alcohol content. After that is a swirl or two to help aerate the spirit a bit, and then I nose it. I usually do two simple sniffs, and then I tilt the glass until it is about to spill, and run my nose from low to high then high to low. I make sure I sniff it at least a total of three times. Then a sip neat, and two more. Each time I try and go deeper into the spirit. Then I add a bit of melt from the ice. I try and aim for a dilution of one part water to between three and five parts spirit. Three more sips, and I add what remains of the ice. After I add the ice, I try and wait a bit before I take my remaining sips. I should also note that I swallow. And that's how I review. For beer it is pretty similar, except I focus less on the nose, and obviously I only sip it neat.

The last piece of administatia is that, as you probably noticed, I put an add up on my site. I feel it is fairly unobtrusive, and I hope you don't mind it. I am trying to move the site to its own domain, but I am trying to allow advertising revenue to pay at least half of the cost. I hope you all do not mind.

Best wishes,
The Scribe


Mixology Monday: The Search for Peychoud's Bitters

So, there are no Peychoud's bitters in Boston, at least none that I can find. This proved a bit of a determent to my New Orleans inspired cocktail, but more on that in a week. Yes, indeed, MxMo has been postponed for a week. However, I will give you a mini-MxMo. Pfiff says I to those who need time to "recover" and "travel." I need none of those things! Okay, so I wasn't at Tales, but I can, you know, pretend...

Anyway, my mini-MxMo is a review of the Maple Tree Inn in Chicago. It truly is a little piece of the Big Easy in the Second City. They have all sorts of New Orleans specialties from crawfish etouffee to barbecue shrimp, and, of course, classics like fille gumbo and jambalaya. The bar, meanwhile, serves probably the most authentic sazeracs and hurricanes in the Windy City, and has an excellent beer selection as well with twenty brews on tap. This is a bar that never put "appletinis" or even cosmos on its menu, but would be more than happy to serve you an old fashioned with your choice of Angostura or Peychoud's bitters, and probably has a bottle of orange bitters behind the bar as well. With that said, I doubt the barstaff have ever even heard of Jeffery Morgenthaller or Paul Clarke, or anyone else who writes online about the resurgence of classic cocktails, but they cannot imagine a world where you cannot get a properly made negroni or Manhattan, and have been making them the same way for thirty years.

Charlie, the owner, is a great guy, and is vaguely reminiscent of the walrus that serves as the inn's mascot, and, if you give him notice, is more than happy to mix up specialties that aren't on the menu. My parents swear that one of his shrimp dishes is the best example in the world. I call it "shrimp beyond veal" since I have absolutely not idea how to spell it. My best shot would be shrimp bingion vie. If you have any idea about the dish to which I refer, please let me know in the comments.

The restaurant is liberally decorated with various Marti Gras style decorations, especially during that time of year, as well a folk- or liberal posters and slogans. A recent visit had signs suggesting that January 20th, 2008 would be the end of America's great mistake. Other signs suggest that you drink more, though only quality hooch. Meanwhile, the restaurant's motto is "Sit long, talk much." and if you aren't talking enough, Charlie will come talk with you.

Good food, good drink, good service, good atmosphere, good prices. What else can you ask for? Check it out:
Charlie's Maple Tree Inn and Louisiana Brasserie
13301 S Western [That's Old Western, there are two Western's in Blue Island]
Blue Island, IL 60406
Or give them a call at (708) 388.3461.

I bid you good eating,
The Scribe


Have I Got a Tale For You

As anyone who reads more than one cocktail blog knows, this weekend in Tales of the Cocktail, a mongo convention of bartenders, distillers, cocktail bloggers, mixologists, and other people involved in the industry. If I am really the only blog you read, well, I'm honoured. Anywho, I'm not there. I know, bummer. However, I have been keeping up on the fifty or so bloggers who are there, and there's lots of great stuff happening.

This Monday, which happens to be MxMo, I'll be whipping up a really yummy cocktail. It may or may not contain elements of molecular mixology, or whatever you want to call it. It will definitely include some culinary non-traditional ingredients. Regardless, I'm pretty stoked about this cocktail. You'll see it in two days.

Today, however, I would like to give you a cocktail I culled from the other bloggers around the internet. Since the only people who are probably reading this right now are beer bloggers, I'm going with a beer cocktail:
Maggie's Midnight
  • 2 oz - Port Wine (LBV)
  • 1/2 oz - Bourbon (Buffalo Trace)
  • 7 oz - Stout Beer (Rogue Shakespeare)
Shake stir port and bourbon to cool, pour into a beer goblet, and top with chilled beer. Stir gently to combine.
The Scribe


A Fearless Spirit

When I was in Dublin, I had the joy of going to the Bow Steet Distillery where a very special spirit has been manufactured for over two and a quarter centuries. I wrote about the experience for Refined Vices, and you can read about it here. When I was in Israel, I stopped by the duty free. They had some very expensive bourbons (about twice what they cost in the States), some Scotch that was, while undoubtedly inexpensive, still more than I wanted to spend. Their selections of other spirits were...well...undistinguished. However, their price on Jameson Irish Whiskey was quite good. And so, now I give you my review:

John Jameson & Son: Original Irish Whiskey

Tasting Conditions:
I had a glass of Jameson after a day of work and an evening of classes. The bottle was room temperature, and freshly opened. I used a tulip glass of approximately six ounces (a Ministry of Rum tasting glass).

Eye: In the glass, the whiskey is a wheaty-honey color with thin, bulbous legs. The bottle is, appropriately, green glass, with the Jameson logo, the Jameson family crest, and some details. While I could not find an age statement on the bottle, the whiskey is allowed five years in the barrel.

Nose: The nose is quite bready, alsmot like a very strong beer. Given that whiskey is, after all, basically very strong beer, I guess that is appropriate. There is a fair amount of burn, which almost covers up the vanilla notes, and some nutty notes.

Mouth: Neat, as the Irish take it, the spirit is just a little sweet, but the burn obscured any other flavours on the first sip. Another sip gave me a little bit of oakiness, and a slightly sour flavour on the finish. The more I sipped, the more rancid it tasted, so I elected to add a bit of water. The water improved it immensely. While it still had the same notes, the sweetness took on a more honeyed tone. The rancid, sour note moved towards citrus, and the burn stopped off a lot. The oak moved slightly towards caramel, but not much. Next, I added a cube of ice. After giving the ice a minute to melt, I took another sip. The ice further smoothed it, leaving citrus notes, as well as burnt sugar. The sweetness retreated a fair bit. However, on reflection, I think that the burn sugar was the source of the rancid taste I had earlier.

Conclusion: This whiskey was probably worth just about every penny I paid for it, but not much more. If I saw it again at duty free or on sale, I think I would probably pick it up, as a mixing whiskey, if nothing else. However, given what it costs in the States, I think I would stick with either Bushmills or Fleck'n as long as I am not taking it straight. However, for the occasional James and ginger, or the cocktail which calls for whiskey, this will make a nice addition to my liquor cabinet.

The Scribe


A Dark Art

I have been enjoying a new desert recently: A glass of quality rum, and a square or two of chocolate. We currently have a large quantity of premium Monbana chocolate in the house, and I also brought back some Max Brenner chocolate truffles. Both are wonderful products. The Monbana comes in 53%, 60%, and 70% cacao. Meanwhile, as far as Max Brenner goes, the guy is slightly crazy. He is trying to create a whole "chocolate culture" with hot chocolate ceremonies similar to East Asian tea ceremonies. With that said, he makes darn tasty chocolates.

Now, for me, pairing a pleasant rum or whisk(e)y (or brandy, of course, but I don't really have any of that on hand) with a square or two of chocolate is a wonderful desert, not to mention quite possibly one of the healthiest deserts I can imagine. Scientists have found that about about 20 mL of ethanol per day (the equivalent of a beer, a glass of wine, or an ounce and a half of spirits) helps convert bad cholesterol (HDL) to good cholesterol (LDL), as well as help prevent cancer and Alzheimer's and other bad things. . Meanwhile, a high cacao dark chocolate is full of anti-oxidants, and other healthy nutrients.

You, my reader, however, did not come here to read random health babbling however, and, to be honest, as long as it wasn't a major health risk, I would continue doing it regardless of the risks. Now, you may ask, what have I learned? Well, first off, a good pairing can make a borderline decent rum quite pleasant. I especially recommend the Max Brenner truffles with Appleton V/X. If you take a few sips of the rum right after a nibble of the truffles, you could swear you were drinking a rum twice as good, and while I am not the greatest fan of neat V/X, with the addition of the chocolate, the rum is a pleasure to sip. On the other hand, the Monbana 70% was a bad idea. The rum turned all bitter in my mouth as well as becoming surprisingly rough.

This brings me to the biggest thing I learned this week: The darker the chocolate, the the darker the rum required to enjoy it. This is obviously not necessarily a hard and fast rule, but I think it is fairly applicable. While I enjoyed the Monbana 53% with the Cruzan Estate Light, it was clear to me that had I tried anything much stronger it would have killed the rum. On the other hand, a glass of Pamapero Aniversario was an excellent good pairing with the 70%, though it was better with the 60%.

Without a doubt though, the standout pairing was the Appleton V/X with the Max Brenner. I think, based on tasting, that the truffles contained some amount of amber spirit in them. However, the most interesting thing, to me, was how the flavours of the chocolate stayed with the you over several sips of rum. For me, the small nibble lasted a good six or seven small sips. This brings me to my next point of interest. I am not sure whether this is considered molecular mixology, or simply good pairing. However, I would be interested in baking a "cocktail cookie" or perhaps using other solid, eaten ingredients to "mix" cocktails in the mouth. Perhaps a mint leaf dipped in lime syrup and bruleed paired with a nice rum would make for an interesting take on the mojito. Hmmm...Something to try...

The Scribe


You Are Feeling Sleepy

If you aren't, then the next review might make you. The most noticeable thing about the beer I am about to review is its spirally label. In fact, some of my friends called it "That spirally beer" for a long time, and some continue to do so. Regardless, the Magic Hat brewery produces a large number of wonderful ales. I am about to review their flagship "#9" while their somewhat imaginative wheat beer (which I believe is available) is considered their "unfiltered offering" or "UFO" for short. It's a quirky brewery that generally produces quite good beer. Thus, I give you:

Magic Hat Brewing Co.: #9
("Not Quite Pale Ale")

Tasting conditions:
It sat in the fridge for about two months before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it just after dinner after a day of school. A touch of a cold did impair me a little.

Eye: A nice honey brown beer ("not quite pale," indeed!). A minimal head appeared on pour, but quickly dissipated. The bottle is traditional brown glass with a somewhat spiral-y “9” logo.

Nose: An ale-y honey meets the nose. Again it wasn’t super obvious, but it was there. A bit of a cold might have impaired my schnoz slightly.
Mouth: My first sip was unpleasant. The first thing I noticed was a bitter front. My second was quite nice. The front end sweetened up. The finish had an almost chocolate flavor, with a honey-caramel in the middle with just a bit of nutmeg.

Conclusion: The first sip was quite a turn off, and despite remembering enjoying the old #9 before, I was prepared to retire to the couch and end the review right there. However, a little perseverance paid of big. While I’m not sure I would keep this beer on hand, if a bar had it, I would certainly order it.


Molecular Mixology Woes and Cocktail Goodness

So, as promised, I did, indeed, attempt to create "caviar." One was a pomegranate-soy caviar and the other a ginger infused pomegranate-lime syrup. The former was supposed to be the topping for a really cool sushi-inspired dish I was working on. It was supposed to be a play on a classic caviar presentation of sour cream on a bellini topped with traditional fish roe caviar. Instead I was planning on a nori and sushi rice bellini with a bit of torro, a squirt of wassabi creme fraishe and the pomegranate-soy caviar. The second was supposed to make a cocktail I was making to go with the dish much more complex. The cocktail was supposed to be Cava (a Spanish sparkling wine), Pama (a pomegranate liqueur), and the lime-ginger-pomegranate syrup caviar. In its way it would have been a play on a Cava sour, sort of. I was hoping for the effect Jamie Boudreau mentioned with his cocktail, the Leigh's Lava Lamp with the bouncing of the caviar.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite get the solidification of the caviar that I was hoping for. I may not have added enough gelatin to the mixture. I added about a packet of gelatin to a half cup of ingredients and while it seemed to bead up nicely while sinking through the oil, when I tried to strain it, the caviars went right through the strainer. This was a bit of a problem. I'm hoping to try it again. Unfortunately, it takes about an hour per shot, and I was in the process of getting ready to plate a ten dish, nine course tasting menu, and was running a bit short of time.

Otherwise, the meal went fairly well. To be fair, I did let the grill cool down a bit too much so the tuna, while done just about perfectly, didn't get a good sear on the outside. I also forgot my camera until the last course. The sorbet that I was making ended up as a granita, and I forgot to put out water pitchers. We also didn't end up with port or coffee to end the meal since we didn't quite make our way through the three bottles of wine that went with the dinner.

Big ups go Tiarre and Forrest from the Ministry of Rum forums for their recipes for baked papaya and papaya sorbet, respectively, as well as both their and the other forumers' help in putting together the cocktail. Surprisingly, what I ended up with was exactly what was on the menu I had created beforehand, including the freezing of the sorbet into a granitta, and the simpler Cava cocktail. I present you, however:

The Grenade Royale:
  • .5 oz. - Pama Pomegranate Liqueur
  • 4.5 oz. - Sparkling wine (a fruitier sparkling wine like Cava or Prosecco works better than Champaign)
Chill both bottles well. Then pour wine over the liqueur, and serve. Use a lemon twist or, better yet, pomegranate seeds for garnish.
Pictures of the baked papaya to follow.

The Scribe


A Hop-ining Place

Two nights ago we went to the Hopleaf bar in Chicago. The Hopleaf is Chicago's best beer bar. It features a whopping 45 beers on tap, which rotate regularly, and a bottled beer list of eighteen pages. Now, you might assume that with such a huge number of beers, people probably only come for the beer, and don't worry about the food. Not so! Our onion rings were exquisite, as were our oysters, which are the house specialty. My father enjoyed his Montreal smoked meat. Moreover, the prices are reasonable, with sandwiches around $12-$13 and appetizers a few bucks less.

But the beer! Oh the beer is wonderful. It's a lot of fun to pick random beers to try. I had a Crooked Tree IPA from the Dark Horse brewery, a Tripel Karmeliet and a Special Block 6 from Brouwerij de Block. The IPA was a nice IPA, quite bitter, and a little sweet. The Karmeliet was probably my favourite of the evening. It had interesting citrus and mint notes and was vaguely reminiscent of the Woodstock Inn Pemi Pale Ale I reviewed last month. As for the #6...well...I remember it was fairly subtle and a little sweet, but not much more than that.

My mother had the De Koninck and the Kwack. Both are Belgian beers (as were the Karmeliet and the 6). At this point I should point out that one really cool thing about the Hopleaf is that they serve beer in its proper serving vessel. The Kwack and the De Koninck were fairly similar with fairly subtle flavours, though the Kwack was a bit sweeter and brighter. They had pleasant citrus notes. I would say I preferred the Kwack. The Kwack also came in a yard glass which made it ever so much cooler.

This brings us to the beers enjoyed by my father. He had North Coast's Old 28 Stout, a Duppel 8 from Maredsous, and a Gulden Draak from Van Steenberge. While I don't recall the latter two too well, since I only had a sip of each, I really enjoyed the stout. It had nice berry-raisin and chocolate notes.


True Hoppines?

So, I think I'm starting a short string, or at least two, posts inspired by that most divine of flowers, the flower that gives beer its wonderful flavour: Hops. Today, I review Wyerbacher's Hops Infusion IPA. I acquired this bottle quite by accident, since I usually don't enjoy ales that are too hoppy. Here are my tasting notes:

Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
: Hops Infusion IPA

Tasting conditions: It sat in the fridge for about two months before being drunk, well chilled. Traditional 16oz pint glass. I enjoyed it just after dinner at the beginning of a Saturday night.

Eye: A cloudy falernum brown beer (think orange-honey for those not familiar with this Caribbean aperitif). On the pour it had a large head of about an inch and a half which subsided relatively rapidly to a more modest half inch head. The bottle is a dark brown glass with pictures of hops on the label. The words on the label are all in a sort of neon-light font which I find intriguing but slightly tacky.

Nose: Quite hoppy in the nose, as the name suggests, with a bit of honey behind it.

Mouth: Quite interesting in the mouth. It was a cool soapy-hoppy, almost sweet-lager-y front with an almost horseradish bitter finish. The second sip helped confirm my initial impressions with a very sweet middle reminiscent of honey, and a bitter finish, though the bitterness of the end was less than on the first sip. On my third sip, the sweetness really came through, though there is not much of an ending to this beer. Ultimately the best way I can describe the taste is similar to that of grapefruit pith.

Conclusion: While the first two sips hinted at some complexity, the remainder of the beer was simply sweet in the front and tasted more like a classic light lager on the finish with just a hint of horseradish. The flavor profile was very one dimensional. I could not find a price point for this beer, and did not buy the bottle I enjoyed. However, if it is in or above the price range of the Woodstock Inn, Long Trail or Harpoon ales, I will give this a pass. On the other hand, the sweetness might be welcomed by those who are less familiar with beer

So, as you can see, it wasn't quite a hit. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera handy when I wrote this review, so no pictures.

Happy sipping!
The Scribe

What's Coming Up In July

Wow! Another month down already. How quick it all goes. So it's now July. I have lots of great stuff coming up in the coming month as well. Hopefully as I get unpacked this blog will hit its stride and do all I promised to do. In the next month you can expect:
  • Bar reviews! I have been to some good bars, and hope to go to some more goodies. Of course, I will let you learn from my triumphs and mistakes.
  • Booze reviews! That's right. I have even more products coming your way with the full Scrivenal treatment.
  • More cocktails! I am working on something for my parent's anniversary, decoding and balancing the cocktails presented at the Chicago rum event, and, of course, creating my own drinks for your enjoyment.
  • Molecular Mixology! Yes, I know I have been making promises for the last several months, but I'm hoping to fulfill those promises soon. I'm making "caviar" either tomorrow or the next day, and hopefully I'll bring it to bear on drinks.
  • Mixology Monday and the Session! I have some ideas to make some interesting stuff for the two regular drinks bloging events I take part in every month.
  • And, of course, even more!
To a healthy month,
The Scribe

PS: My apologies on spelling in this post. Not only had I just gotten back from a wonderful bar, but I was also having computer difficulties.