Taco the Town

For the last week or two I’ve working on a compendium of Alberta’s craft breweries. Unfortunately though, breweries in Alberta are like weeds – as soon as you think you’ve got them all, another one bursts through the cracks of the sidewalk.

I figured I’d start in the fawild-craft-logor South. Partially because I live there, but also because I’m too lazy to start on researching the Calgary ones. There isn’t too much to talk about here in Lethbridge. Yet.

Wild Craft Brewery was set to open in Lethbridge in Spring 2015. For a while I could find the Wild Hops IPA and Pilsner varieties in most liquor stores, though they were brewed in BC. But days and months went by with no opening date set.

Then they were gone. Nothing to be found bearing the brand but a lone six pack at the bottom of the shelf.

Turns out this brewery is currently undergoing a name change to Coulee Brew Co. Named after the  carved by glaciers that line the Oldman River, Coulee Craft will be the first brewery in Lethbridge in 25 years since the Molson-owned House of Lethbridge Brewery closed its doors. However, the countdown on Coulee Craft’s website still reads 102 days left to go – I’ve circled December 6th on my calendar.

I’m disappointed I have to wait a while longer for a brew-pub in my town of residence. I’ll have to explore the myriad of available brews from Calgary in the meantime. But you can’t always get what you want. Fortunately, you can always get tacos.

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Marinated Steak Tacos with Tequila Guacamole

2lb (600g) lean top sirloin steak

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp smoked paprikaIMG_20150804_194208

1/2 cup beer

2-3 tbsp hot sauce (I use Valentina*)

2-3 ripe tomatoes

1/2 cup shredded white cheddar

2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce or cabbage

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced

10 small corn tortillas

Tequila Guacamole

3 ripe avocados

2 tbsp lime juice

2 tbsp tequila (1 oz. shot)

½ cup diced fresh tomato

½ tsp salt

  1. Pre-heat your BBQ to medium-high for cooking over direct heat.
  2. Prepare the top sirloin for marinating using a meat tenderizer or by stabbing it repeaatedly with a fork. The latter is far more satisfying. Transfer to a bowl or zipper-seal bag.
  3. Combine hot sauce, beer and spices in a small bowl. Whisk to combine and pour over meat.
  4. Marinate for at least 20 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day, turning occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the tequila guac. Scoop the avocado pulp into a large bowl and toss with lime juice, tequila and salt. Mash avocado pulp with a fork or potato-masher. Fold in diced tomato. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.
  6. Remove the steak from the marinade (discard the marinade) and grill, turning halfway through cooking, for a total of about 10 minutes or until medium-rare.
  7. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. Toss the tortillas over the grill for a few seconds to warm them. Serve with tequila guac, sliced steak, lettuce, cheese, diced tomato and fresh cilantro.Valentina

Serves 4

*P.S. If you’ve never tried Valentina, you’re missing out. Smoky, spicy and slightly vinegar-y. You won’t regret it. Plus it’s $2 a bottle at Wal-Mart. I go through about 4 in a month.

References

Global News http://globalnews.ca/news/1520718/southern-albertas-first-craft-brewery-opening-this-spring/

A Dram Come True

singleton
Image from The Whiskey Exchange

Whisky* fascinates me – it’s produced by many cultures across the world. There’s bourbon in the Southern United States, Irish whiskey, Canadian whisky* and of course scotch. While some might argue the differences are largely geographic, there are some distinct differences in ingredients and distilling procedures. This phenomenon is especially true in the context of Scotch whisky – even within a region, the flavours often differ so much that they can hardly be considered the same thing.

Take the Singleton of Glen Ord, on the edge of the region known as the “Black Isle”. The packaging might look familiar to Canadian scotch-drinkers – the label is almost identical to the Singleton of Dufftown, save the change in name. This one is exported solely to Asia, and is a smooth and balanced single malt. I was however quite disappointed to learn that Glen Ord did not peat their malt, though they have in the past. “Peated” means the malted barley has been dried over a peat fire, adding a distinctive smoky flavour to the resulting whisky that endures all stages of distillation and maturation. This however, makes the resulting product strikingly different from other varieties.

DSC07657Glen Ord matures half of the whisky is aged in bourbon casks, the other half in sherry casks. The two are blended at the end. It should be noted that the volume of whisky will decrease during ageing by about 2% per year, but can be higher in warmer, drier continents. This fraction of alcohol which evaporates from the casks during maturation is known as the “Angel’s Share”. Scotch must be aged a minimum of three years in the barrel, though most producers choose to age longer.

My only complaint with modern distillery tours is the lack of interaction. Yes you have a knowledgeable tour guide and have the opportunity to taste the wares, but you can’t get very close to the equipment in any stage past the mash. Neither are you allowed to take pictures due to the high concentration of volatiles in the air. This is consistent with most other operational distilleries.

The distinctive pagoda roof of a distillery seen at Dallas Dhu, designed to vent the heat of the stills.
The distinctive pagoda roof seen at the Dallas Dhu distillery, designed to vent the heat of the stills.

Not so at Dallas Dhu, a historical distillery dating back to the Victorian era located South-east of Forres in the Speyside region. This one we stumbled upon by accident while we were searching for Randolph’s Leap. Not only were we able to get up nice and close to the equipment, we were able to document our findings in photographs. Another stark contrast between the two distilleries is the difference in technologies used. While Dallas Dhu installed various mannequins around the premises to illustrate how tasks were done by hand, these procedures are automated in most distilleries today.

The Dallas Dhu was operational between 1899 and 1983, and is named for the Gaelic words for “Black Water Valley”. Currently, the property is owned by Scotland’s Historic Buildings and Monument Directorate. Historic Scotland has operated the property since its establishment in 1992. Here we were able to climb up into the two-storey tower where malt was stored, peer into the mash tun where sugars were fermented, and stand next to the pear-shaped wash still where the beer-like concoction was once transformed into a fiery spirit.

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Big ole’ bags of malted barley.

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We finished the tour sipping a scotch and watching a cheesy video listening to the ghost of Roderick Dhu impart his wisdom like a whisky-bottle genie. What were we drinking if the distillery hasn’t been operational for over 30 years, you might ask? Not the vintage Dallas Dhu – a bottle of the 1982 vintage will cost you a minimum of 200 pounds (which, realistically, isn’t terrible in the world of scotch). This one was the Roderick Dhu blended whisky, which incorporates a small amount (a teaspoon, perhaps?) of the original Dallas Dhu to create a pale, easy-drinking yet gently peated whisky palatable to most. While not my favorite dram of the itinerary, it was a unique addition to our whisky-tasting experience.

*Notice how I spelled this word without an “e”? Both spellings of the word itself has celtic origins, but the word “whisky” is used in Scotland and Canada. “Whiskey” refers to a similar libation in other locations such as Ireland and the United States.

References:

  1. Historic Scotland, Dallas Dhu Distillery. http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_085
  2. Whisky.com, Dallas Dhu. http://www.whisky.com/whisky-database/distilleries/details/fdb/Distilleries/Details//dallas-dhu.html

Bean Me Up, Scotty

DDC-Peche-MortelCoffee notes are pretty common in any beer brewed with chocolate malt (itypically stouts and porters), while some go so far as to brew with actual coffee beans. Take Péché Mortel from Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel out of Montreal. French for “mortal sin”, this Imperial Stout has almost a molasses-like consistency with rich espresso tones and an impressive 9.5% ABV.

Likewise, Rogue’s Mocha Porter combines a slight earthiness to a coffee and chocolate flavor, though comparatively lighter in body and alcohol content. In spirit of the enigmatic revolutionary on the label, this beer is brewed with the appropriately-named Rebel™ & Liberty™ Hops grown by their own Rogue Farms. Other noteworthy labels include Stir Stick Stout from Winnipeg’s Half Pint’s Brewing, and the Coffee Porter from Mill Street Brewery.

rogue-mocha-porterThrow back to 2007 and my very first job. I called myself the ever-pretentious term “barista”, though I really just made coffee for a living. My “favourite” customers were the ones would come through the drive through asking for their lattes steamed to 180°, burning the milk just so their drink would stay warm an extra five minutes.

Humans aren’t usually able to detect the difference between 179° and 180° Fahrenheit, though I’m sure there are some exceptions. Unfortunately, marshmallows can. Which is where a candy thermometer comes in handy. Measuring a specific temperature is a bit more objective than “when it’s done”. I’m sure it’s possible to make these without one, but you’re leaving a lot more up to chance.

Not everyone thinks about where marshmallows come from, do they? Are they concocted in a lab from unpronounceable chemicals? Harvested from some alien plant matter? A Marshmallow plant does exist, but tastes nothing like the sweet gooey mess we know best. The reality is that someone in a factory (or a kitchen) had to make them from sugar and bovine hooves (i.e. gelatin). Yes it’s true – marshmallows are not vegan, nor even vegetarian. But they do contain simple, easy-to-pronounce ingredients (not that this makes them healthy in any way).

beam

The following recipe I made with a lovely espresso milk stout from Fuggles and Warlock Craftworks called Bean Me Up. Full production out of their Richmond, BC location doesn’t open up until Fall 2015, but I have exceedingly high expectations. Mainly due to their“Geek Culture” branding with references to video gaming, and pop culture. Plus there’s this video they made for their brewery announcement (see below).

Mocha Stout-mallows

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Equipment:

  • 9 x 9″ glass pan or casserole dish
  • Stand or hand-held mixer
  • Candy thermometer
Prepping the pan:
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • Vegetable oil
Marshmallows:
  • 3/4 cup stout beer, divided
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 3 envelopes of Knox gelatin (or 7 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil (for the pan)
  1. Before you begin, prepare the pan the marshmallows will set in. Sift together powdered sugar, corn starch and cocoa powder onto a large plate. Next, grease a 9 x 9″ glass casserole dish or pan with vegetable oil. Add a teaspoon or two of the cocoa powder/sugar mixture to the casserole dish, ensuring the sides of the pan are coated as well. Set aside.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup of the stout with the instant espresso granules. Whisk until granules are dissolved. Transfer the mixture to the refrigerator to cool. Make sure it is COMPLETELY cool, or all is lost.
  3. Pour the cooled coffee into the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or you can use a large bowl and a hand-mixer). Carefully sprinkle gelatin over the cooled coffee mixture and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  4. In a medium saucepan, combine the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1/4 cup of stout. Attach the candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot. Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Turn the heat up to moderately high heat and bring the mixture to a hard boil and cook for 1 minute, until the candy thermometer reaches 240⁰ F.
  6. Lower the whisk attachment and turn it on low. Carefully add the boiling liquid to the gelatin mixture. Turn the mixer to high and beat for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture has doubled in volume and holds stiff peaks.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish or baking pan, smoothing out the top until it’s evenly disbursed. The marshmallow fluff will have a consistency of hot mozzarella cheese that stretches to infinity – try your very best not to touch it with your hands or you may have regrets.
  8. Dust the top with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder/sugar mixture. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 4 hours or overnight to set.
  9. Take a knife and run it around the edges of the casserole dish or pan. Invert the marshmallow sheet onto a large cutting board.
  10. Using a sharp knife, cut the marshmallows into 1-inch cubes. Store the marshmallows in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Don’t forget to toast them.