Beer Wars – The Schwarz Awakens

Christmas is coming early this year, for myself and millions of other Star Wars fans. With the advent of the Force Awakens on the horizon, it’s also time to re-watch all the movies.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably still watch the prequels, in spite of their shortcomings. But in order to survive such an ordeal, you’re going to need some beer. Use the following suggestions to guide your pairings. Personally I recommend watching the original trilogy first – these you do actually want to remember. The others…not so much.

Episode IV. A New Hope

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

I recommend watching this movie with an ice cold pilsner or a blonde lager. Or anything that resembles the first beer you ever drank.

If your prior drink of choice was the raspberry-flavored vodka you smuggled into the movie theatre in soda bottles, your first taste of beer was a significant milestone in terms of drinking habits. For me, this is that little green can with the bunnies on it. It tastes good in a reminiscent way. But now that you’re a big kid, you know that there’s a world of other possibilities.

Episode V. The Empire Strikes Back

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” – Darth Vader

Episode V with it’s adventure and unexpected plot twists is best paired with a sweet and sophisticated dubbel. Try one of the many from Belgium’s Trappist Breweries – sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Episode V is regarded by many as the best movie of the six. Likewise Westvleteren holds a similar position in the beer world, if you can get your hands on a bottle. Even your less beer-savvy friends will find something they like about it.


Episode VI. Return of the Jedi

Darth Sidious in his younger days? The resemblance is uncanny.

“Only at the end do you realize the power of the Dark Side.” – Emporer Palpatine

Find thee a British bitter ale, like Hobgoblin from Wychwood Brewery. Something with a rich malty sweetness that ties it all together and then leaves you with a bittersweet taste in your mouth.

Why? Because the original trilogy is now over, and you’re going to have to wait 16 years for another Star Wars movie.


Episode I. The Phantom Menace

“It’s a trap!” – Admiral Ackbar

A character with minimal spoken lines and a double-sided lightsaber was the best part of this movie.

Episode I is like a cheap vacation in Mexico. You’re really REALLY excited for it. But as soon as you step off the plane, you realize it’s hurricane season. And you still have a three hour bus-ride to the resort.

To drown your disappointment, you buy a beer from the first beer-cart you see. Corona. Ick.

Sure, it looks appetizing enough until you realize it’s been left in a half-empty ice bucket for eight hours. Now it’s Luke-warm (see what I did there) and the clear bottle has let in enough light to make it kind of skunky-tasting. The good news? You can cover that taste up with some lime juice. And you can drink lots of it. The more you drink, the less noticeable is the taste of utter disappointment…and the less you’ll remember this miserable excuse for a movie.

Episode II. Attack of the Clones

“A jedi craves not these things.” – Yoda

“I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.” Is this supposed to be romantic?

If this movie were an alcoholic beverage, it would be a cooler. Or some saccharin over-sweetened fruity alco-pop garbage like Mango Mongozo.

Sure there’s some alcohol in there and a handful of relatively cool battle scenes. And maybe it was a classy lambic-style brew to begin with – they might have thrown in an interesting back-story. But it isn’t beer any longer. Now it’s an over-produced love story between Whine-ikin’s raging hormones and whatever teenager has the stomach to drink this swill.

And if you drink too much of it, the hangover will knock you into the next year.

What are we talking about anymore? Oh yeah. Star Wars.


Episode III. Revenge of the Sith

“You do have your moments. Not many, but you have them.” – Princess Leia

Finalize the final moments of this sad trilogy with a Double IPA, or better yet a triple. Personally, I think Stone something from Stone Brewing Company would suit the mood. Ruination IPA 2.0 or the RuinTen Triple IPA would do the trick – high aclohol and heavy hop flavour.


The sheer force of the hops in this beverage will torch your tastebuds and cleanse your palate of all the uncomfortable flavours of the past decade. And maybe offer some semblance of redemption for the last 4 ½+ hours you wasted watching Episodes I and II. You might also be saying “I’ll never drink that again.” But deep down, you know that’s a lie.

Now go watch the original trilogy another five times.

Episode VII.

“There is another…” –  Yoda

Words cannot adequately describe my excitement.

Some new-age craft beer with a new ingredient you’ve never tried before. Coffee. Chamomile. Pizza. Whatever. You’re a little excited, a little terrified. You don’t know what to expect. But, no matter how bad it is, it’s STILL going to be better than episodes I through III.

I was pleasantly surprised by this Stargazer Chamomile Wheat from Canuck Empire. Let’s hope, for the sake of the franchise, that the movie is equally as satisfying.

Got opinions? Agree/disagree with my beer-nalysis of Star Wars? Comment below, and tell me what you”ll be drinking for your marathon.

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Ginger Beer

DSC08724I really like ginger. Like, a lot. I’ve added it to pretty much every meal I’ve cooked this week. Which you’d think would make me an afficionado of ginger beers – not without some exceptions. Today I’ll primarily discuss the alcoholic varieties, with a few exceptions.

I can handle the occasional Crabbie’s, but I usually tap out after half a glass – I just can’t handle the high sugar content. This is my usual complaint with ginger beers – either they are too sweet or the ginger flavour isn’t “kick-in-the-face” sharp enough. The contrast to this is Fallentimber’s Ginger Mead – it’s refreshing and surprisingly dry, considering the prominent honey flavor, though it is without the other spices that we associate with a “ginger beer”. Learn more about Fallentimber’s meads here.

RobinsonsOldTomGinger
http://www.beersofeurope.co.uk/

My current favorite though, is Old Tom. No, not your crazy neighbor that wears ten different hats at the same time. Nor the cat that wanders your neighborhood yowling for lady-cat affection. Originally labelled as Ginger Tom, Old Tom is a traditional ale mixed with a ginger beer – the best of both worlds. This way you get the flavors of a lemony, herbal ginger beer cut with a crisp traditional ale.

The Phillips brewing company also makes a legitimate beer with (that bears little to no resemblence to the aforementioned varieties). This one is a legitimate beer brewed with ginger. Much like the thinly sliced pink pickled ginger, this stuff is great with sushi. Not a fan of that pink stuff? This might not be the beer for you.
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Are mixed drinks more your style? Traditionally served in a copper mug, a Moscow Mule is made with ginger beer, lime, and vodka. Headframe Spirits out of Butte serves up their own version, the Montucky Mule, with their signature Neversweat Bourbon and Cock and Bull Ginger Beer. Not in the area? Fentiman’s Ginger Beer makes an excellent mix for any of the above spirits.

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Image sourced from Serious Eats

Korean cuisine is rife with ginger and strong, spicy flavors. This recipe literally translates to “mixed rice and vegetables” – creative, I know. But incredibly tasty. Keep in mind this is a non-Korean girl’s boozy attempt at Korean food, and it should not be considered authentic in any way. FYI, Gochujang is a spicy fermented bean paste that is pretty indespensible in this recipe. It’s pretty easy to find at any Asian Grocery store if you know what the container looks like – they’ll probably have this kind there (see image left). If not, good luck reading Korean!

Bi Bim Bap with Ginger Beer Sauce

Marinated Beef

  • 1/2 cup ginger beer
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 lb steak, thinly sliced

Sesame Steamed Bok Choy

  • Bok Choy
  • 2 tsp sesame oilIMG_20150924_204238
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp mirin

Other Ingredients

  • Matchstick carrots
  • Pickled radish
  • 4 serving portions of steamed rice
  • 4 eggs

Ginger Beer-bim-bap sauce

  • 3 Tbsp gochujang
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup ginger beer
  • 1 Tbsp roasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp vinegar – I used apple vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced ginger

Directions:

  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add steak; toss to coat. Cover and chill for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.
  2. Combine sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin in a wok and heat over medium. Add bok choy and stir gently. Add 2 tbsp water (or ginger beer, if you have a bit extra). Cover and steam until dark green.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add one-quarter of beef and cook, turning once, until cooked through and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat in 3 batches with remaining oil and beef.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce.
  5. Divide rice among bowls. Assemble steamed bok choy and beef overtop of rice, along with additional vegetables.
  6. Right before serving, fry one egg (over-easy) for each portion. Top each bowl with a fried egg and serve with bi bim bap sauce.

Serves 4

References

Recipe adapted from: http://mykoreankitchen.com/2013/07/12/bibimbap-korean-mixed-rice-with-meat-and-assorted-vegetables/

http://www.ratebeer.com/beer/robinsons-old-tom-with-ginger–ginger-tom-bottle/91576/

The Best of the ‘Wurst

oktoberfest-info_logoI have recently been informed that some family members were planning to attend Oktoberfest in Munich. Without me! Naturally, I was a jealous mess for several weeks leading up to the event. However, I did manage to pursue a similar experience (or as close as I could get) without leaving the province.

Oktoberfest began as a celebration of the wedding between the Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The festivities were held on the fields in front of the city gates, while all of Munich’s citizens were invited to attend. The festival grounds which were thereafter known as the Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”) or “weisn” to the locals. Somehow this morphed into an anniversary party, then a public festival and has since become a tradition to consume fermented grain.calgary-oktoberfest-new2015-v1

The website offers some helpful information on planning your visit, as well as some interesting facts and numbers about the event. This year 5.9 million guests attended this year, while the Lost and Found collected 600 passports, 580 wallets, 320 mobile phones, 220 bags and “rucksacks” (or backpacks, whatever you want to call them), 18 cameras, 230 glasses and 45 pieces of jewellery or watches, among other more unusual items.The Calgary Oktoberfest is more or less an extension of the Calgary International Beer Fest – numerous local breweries get together, brew some special casks and flaunt their delicious wares. There are however a few more costumed attendees. And live music.

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I was impressed by the food offered there. Last Best put on a delicious pot of Elk Meatballs with a double-smoked bacon tomato sauce (I might have gone back for seconds). However, I was disappointed with the lack of German food. Where were the bratwurst? The schnitzel? Naturally, the next day I concocted the German food I’d missed. Starting with the following soft pretzels.


Bavarian Beer PretzelsIMG_20150927_135741

1 bottle (12 ounces) pilsner or Oktoberfest-style beer

1 package (1 tbsp.) active dry yeast

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

2 tablespoons sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

4 – 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup baking soda

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon water

Kosher Salt

  1. In a small saucepan, heat beer to 110°F. Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast overtop.
  2. In a large bowl, combine oil, sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3 cups flour. Pour in yeast mixture and beat until smooth.
  3. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft, sticky dough.
  4. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.
  5. Transfer dough to a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 425°. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide and shape into ten balls.
  7. Roll each into a long rope, approximately 20-24″ long. Curve ends of each rope to form a circle; twist ends once and lay over opposite side of circle, pinching ends to seal into a pretzel shape.
  8. Fill a large pot with 10 cups water. Stir in baking soda and heat to a boil.
  9. Drop pretzels, one or two at a time, into boiling water. Cook 30 seconds.
  10. Remove each pretzel with a slotted spoon and drain well on towels, removing as much moisture as possible.
  11. Place at least two inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  12. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and water. Brush egg mixture over pretzels and sprinkle with coarse salt.
  13. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to a wire rack to cool.
  14. Freeze option: Freeze cooled pretzels in resealable plastic freezer bags. To use, thaw at room temperature or, if desired, microwave each pretzel on high 20-30 seconds or until heated through. Yield: 8 pretzels.
  15. Divide and shape dough into eight balls; roll each into a 14-in. rope. Starting at one end of each rope, loosely wrap dough around itself to form a coil. Boil, top and bake as directed. Yield: 8 pretzels. To Make Pretzel Bites: Divide and shape into eight balls; roll each into a 12-in. rope. Cut each rope into 1-in. pieces. Boil and top as directed;
  16. Bake at 400° for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 10 large pretzels. Serve with mustard for dipping.

References

http://www.oktoberfest.de/en/

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oktoberfest

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home. http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/soft-beer-pretzels

It’s a Trappist!

its-a-trappistBelgium is high on my places to visit. Why? Perhaps because it is home to three of my favorite things: chocolate, waffles, and Trappist beers.

Abbey and Trappist ales may appear similar in a liquor store. While there are no rigid brewing styles they must conform to, they tend to be dark, rich, and strong with notes of fruit and spice. There are some defining differences as well – all Trappist ales are abbeys, but not all abbey beers are Trappists.

st-bernardus-abt-12
Not a Trappist. But still good.

The term “abbey beer” refers to a beer brewed in the style of Trappist monks, but could easily be brewed by a monks, a secular brewery or some guy in his basement. An actual “Trappist” beer must be recognized by the International Trappist Association to be considered as such.

At the moment there are only 10 of the trappist monasteries that produce beer, six of which are located in Belgium. It is unlikely there will ever be more, due to the strict criteria a Trappist brewery must comply with.

  1. ivt_logo 800The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision.
  2. The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.
  3. The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture.  The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds.  Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.
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Trappist ales. Image sourced from Belgian Beer Journal.

I say unlikely, but not impossible. After all, Spencer Trappist Ale has already defied the odds by producing the first and only certified Trappist ale in the United States.

A list of the Trappist monasteries that currently brew is as follows:

  1. The Trappist beer and the Trappist cheeses of Orval Abbey (Belgium)
  2. The Trappist beers of Achel Abbey (Belgium)
  3. The Trappist beers and Trappist cheeses of Westmalle Abbey (Belgium)
  4. The Trappist beers and Trappist cheeses of Scourmont-Lez-Chimay Abbey (Belgium)
  5. The Trappist beers of Rochefort Abbey (Belgium)
  6. The Trappist beers of Westvleteren Abbey (Belgium)
  7. The Trappist beers, Trappist cheeses, breads, cookies, chocolate, jams, and honey of Koningshoeven Abbey in Tilburg (The Netherlands)
  8. The Trappist beers and liqueurs of Stift Engelszell Abbey (Austria)
  9. The Trappist beer of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer (USA)
  10. The Trappist beer of Maria Toevlucht Abbey in Zundert (The Netherlands)
  11. The Trappist beer of Tre Fontane Abbey in Rome (Italy)
Orval Abbey http://www.orval.be/
Orval Abbey http://www.orval.be/

If you noticed the Orval, Westmalle, Scourmont-Lez-Chimay, and Koninghoeven Abbeys also produce cheese. Other Trappist monasteries exist, but may choose not to brew at all. For example, Mont des Cats in France does not produce beer, instead focusing their efforts on cheese. Likewise, Echt-Tegelen in the Netherlands produces an interesting selection of liqueurs.

The following recipe makes 4-5 crispy, fluffy Belgian waffles with a rich Belgian ale syrup. If you don’t have an abbey or a Trappist on hand, any beer will do.

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Bacon Belgian Beer Waffles

4 eggs, separatedIMG_20150908_125029

1/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup dark Trappist ale or stout

1/4 cup milk

5 tbsp melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

6 strips maple bacon, cooked crispy and chopped

Maple Caramel Ale Syrup to serve (see below)

  1. Pre-heat waffle iron according to manufacturers instructions.
  2. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in one medium bowl and the yolks in another. Do not get any yolk in the whites, or all is lost.
  3. Add the sugar, beer, milk, melted butter and vanilla to the yolks. Whisk gently until combined.
  4. Add the salt to the whites and whip vigorously with a hand-mixer or stand-mixer until stiff peaks form. Or do it by hand, if your biceps are up to it. This should take about 4 minutes.
  5. In the large bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Add chopped bacon to the bowl and stir to combine.
  6. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Slowly add the yolk mixture and stir until just combined.
  7. Gently fold the whites into the batter, making sure not to crush .
  8. Pre-heat a waffle maker, cook waffles according to manufactures specifications.
  9. Serve with Guinness Caramel Syrup.

Serves four somewhat-hungry humans.

Maple Caramel Ale SyrupIMG_0324

3/4 cup Guinness

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup maple syrup

  1. Combine all three ingredients in a small saucepan.
  2. Stir over high heat for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Once mixture begins to foam, reduce to medium-low heat.
  4. Simmer until syrup is 50% of its original volume. Keep a watchful eye on the pot while this occurs – the syrup (if overcooked) will harden upon cooling.
  5. Serve over waffles or pancakes.

Makes 1 cup of syrup

Note: If you do overcook the syrup (and it hardens when cooled), it’s not the end of the world. Re-heat the caramel prior to pouring over pancakes. Let the syrup-coated pancakes cool a minute or two before eating.

References

  1. http://www.trappist.be/en/pages/trappist-beers
  2. Recipe adapted from The Beeroness. http://thebeeroness.com/2015/03/04/maple-bacon-beer-waffles/
  3. Image sourced from http://bensbeerblog.com/2012/12/12/beer-and-star-wars-a-pairing-guide/its-a-trappist/

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

IMG_20150803_203314

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.

IMG_20150804_224710

Don’t forget to toast them.

Scone with the Wind

Pyramid-Apricot-Ale-22-oz-Label
Image sourced from Beerpulse.com

Apricot-flavored ales are not a new thing. While not the first fruit beers to exist, they are perhaps the first to become popular in a Canadian market. Most are just fruity enough to be refreshing, but not so cloyingly sweet as to be labeled a “girly-beer”. Edmonton folk may be unlikely to try another kind, loyal to their Alley Kat’s signature Aprikat. Which is understandable to a former Edmontonian, yet unfortunate as there are others deserving equal attention.

Case in point, the Apricot Ale from Pyramid Brewery in Seattle, brewed with nugget hops and a 1:1 ratio of barley and wheat. Did I mention this one won a gold medal in the Fruit, Vegetable Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival®?

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APRICOTOPUS-500-WEB

More recently, I stumbled upon Sweet Heat by Burnside Brewing Company. This one happens to be an apricot ale with apricots and peppers. Name something from Portland that isn’t weird. This one I found especially sour, with an intensely spicy (and slightly painful) finish that coats back of the tongue. I liked it. Others were less fond.

Others include the Apricot Wheat from St. Ambroise out of Montreal and Apricotopus from Parallel 49. The name itself makes this beer deserving of a try.

Bake the following scones with one of the latter brews. Maybe even pour some in the batter. And pronounce them correctly – the title of this article may assist you with that particular task.

IMG_0230

Apricot Ale Scones

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (about 4 1/2 ounces)

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup apricot or wheat beer

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add apricots and 1 tablespoon orange peel and stir to mix.
  3. Slowly pour in whipping cream and beer. Stir just until dough forms.
  4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Knead gently just until dough holds together.
  5. With your hands coated in flour, form dough into 10-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-thick round. Cut into 12 wedges. Transfer wedges to large baking sheet, spacing evenly.
  6. Brush scones with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar.
  7. Bake scones until light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly.
  8. Serve scones warm or at room temperature. With an apricot beer. Or tea if it’s still before 10:00AM.

Makes 12 scones

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

Speyside Craft Brewery

For readers less-familiar with my recent activities, I haSpeysign1ve recently spent two weeks travelling through Scotland. Today I’d like to tell you about one of our greatest accidents of the excursion. After all, you can’t have an adventure without a mishap or two.

Speyside is one of, if not my absolute, favorite regions of Scotland. Not only do you have the highest concentration of Scotch distilleries, but each town you visit has its own character and charm.

My partner-in-crime and I had planned to visit the Highland Games at Gordon Castle in Fochabers on our last day in the highlands. Not only did we (and by we, I mean he) have to drive through 20 roundabouts on the left-hand side of the road, but we were sidetracked along the way.

I’m very easily distracted. Especially by beer. “Look! A brewery!” I exclaim as we pass through the town of Forres, begging my chauffeur to go investigate.

beerbus
Image courtesy Speyside Craft Brewery.
Seb_kegs
Image courtesy Speyside Craft Brewery.

A man stood outside the door on his phone, his yellow pants matching the door and the trim of the building.We slowly drive up to the door and notice the “closed sign”. As we start to drive away, the man in the yellow pants waves at us to stay. We roll down our window to hear him say, “Hey, do you guys want to come have a look around?” He hangs up his phone and unlocks the door.

The man later introduced himself as Seb, and gave us an impromptu tour of the brewery. In only its second year of operation, the Speyside Craft Brewery is becoming a local gem in Scotland’s burgeoning craft beer scene. We were just a few weeks late to attend the second of their beer festivals, complete with music and food. Seb offered us a taste of their newest seasonal, and sent us on our way with some brewery swag.

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My kind of souvenirs.

The name of each lager and ale is crafted with a nod to local character and legend. Even the logo with its adorning cetaceans is reminiscent of the Moray Firth where many tourists flock to catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two. We went home with a bottle of their signature IPA – the marker of a good brewery. Named after the small county between Aberdeenshire and the Highlands that the Speyside Brewery calls home, this IPA is rich and malty, not unlike another of Scotland’s beloved beverages.

The river Findhorn.
The river Findhorn.
Just a big ole' rock.
Just a big ole’ rock.

Likewise, Speyside’s signature lager, Randolph’s Leap, is named after an iconic gorge along the river Findhorn where the rock banks are closest together. Legend has it that Thomas Randolph, the new Earl of Moray, was once chasing a local clan leader that had attempted to raid his castle in Darnaway. Alistair Cumming, supposedly leapt across the gorge to ensure the freedom . I guess “Cumming’s Leap” didn’t have the same ring to it. Nevertheless, it’s quite a romantic spot to go hiking so long as you bring enough snacks to avoid your travel companion becoming hangry.

It wasn’t until later in our journey we cracked open the IPA. We had brought it along into our hike up the Eildon Hills in the Scottish Borders. However, not needing a set of keys the entire time meant there was an unexpected consequence – we didn’t have the bottle opener that was usually attached to the keychain. Luckily, there were a few craggy rocks around to use as a fulcrum.

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It’s less comfy than it looks.

Is it somewhere I’d recommend a fellow traveller to visit, or at least seek out in a pub? Absolutely. Do I wish they exported to Canada? Absolutely.

Guess we’ll just have to go back and visit. Check out the Speyside story, learn about the region, and plan your visit at their website here.