Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Best for Beer: Bottles or Cans?


     The old cans vs. bottles debate.  It has raged on for years.  It's almost as passionately argued as the wine bottle cork vs. screw cap.  In the craft beer community, for quite a while, it had seemed as if the bottle had won out. Well all that is certainly beginning to change as more and more craft breweries are either choosing to offer many of their beers in cans or are exclusively canning all together. The best example of canning exclusively would be Oskar Blues of Colorado, who began canning their beers back in 2002 and subsequently became the first craft brewery to do this.  Many of the most respected and sought after beers, especially IPAs, are found in can only format.  These beers are considered some of the best examples in the world of that style and are only available in cans.  So that says quite a bit about cans right there.
     Several side by side blind comparisons of the same beer in both formats have been done.  It's very hard to tell which vessel the beer came from and it almost seems as if the can does a better job of retaining freshness and carbonation.  With that being said, the biggest argument against cans has always been that they seem to leave a metallic taste behind, thereby tainting the flavor.  Today, this argument is not valid as all cans these days are lined with a water-based polymer that prevents the contents from actually coming in contact with the actual can.  In fact this is a must, as the aluminum cans we use today are so thin that the beer would quickly eat right through them. As for the contact with the top of the can when being consumed, if this really bothers you that much simply pour the beer out into a glass. We also shouldn't forget that draft beer usually comes from an aluminum keg, right?
     Two other huge benefits that cans provide are that they pretty much completely block out UV light and allow almost no oxygen in after being sealed.  The same can not be said about bottles.  Light and oxygen are two of beer's biggest enemies as they quickly cause the beer to lose it's flavor and freshness. So cans actually preserve their contents and protect them better than bottles.
     Other pros for cans: they fit in a cooler better, they are stackable,  they won't shatter when dropped, they are more conducive to outdoor activities,  and they don't take up as much room in the recycle bucket.  It almost seems as if cans were made for the warm weather.  They are perfect for the beach, the pool, or for hiking.  Tailgating with cans is safer as you don't have to worry about stepping on broken glass.
     So the evidence is quite clear: cans don't deserve the stigma that still seems to follow them around.  They are just more practical.  Even though you most likely won't see your favorite bottle conditioned cellar worthy Belgian ale or barrel aged stout in a can, it is pretty safe to say that cans just make more sense for most companies and consumers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New Bourbon Cocktails

Looking for something new and exciting to mix up for your next party (or just after a long day at work)? Here are some really cool drinks you can make with all those delicious Bourbons that keep popping up on our shelves each week. Cheers!

P.S. Don't forget to sign up for our Bourbon Cocktail Class next Thursday (5/21/15) at 6pm to learn how to make these from our local Bourbon expert Shea Heffernan

(Summer in) Manhattan
2 parts Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
1 part Meletti Amaro
¼ part St. Germaine
Bittermens Hopped-Grapefruit Bitters

Bourbon Black Tea Mint Julep
2 parts Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon
¾ part Black Tea
¾ part Simple Syrup
Muddled Mint

Bardstown Sour
2 parts Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
1 part Fresh Lemon Juice
1 part Simple Syrup
*Optional- Float Fruit-Forward Red Wine

TIKI Bar Old Fashioned
2 parts Redemption High-Rye Bourbon
1 part Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
 ½ part Blackwells Dark Rum
½ part Simple Syrup
Bittermens TIKI Bitters

Atlantic City Sunrise
1 ½ parts Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon
2 ½ parts Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
3 dashes Regans Orange Bitters
Muddled Fresh Basil

Friday, May 15, 2015

Think Pink: Why Dry Rose Wines are the Perfect Summer Drink!

"Pink Wines?!? Not for me, they're all sweet like White Zinfandel, right?" Whoa, stop the train and back it up a bit. Here's the real story.

Pink wines or Roses as they are usually referred to, are not all sweet and syrupy. In fact most rose wines are bone dry and loved by red wine enthusiasts. Think of them like the light refreshing version of your favorite red wines. They are the perfect Spring time sipping wines because they have the flavors and complexity of a red wine with the light easy drinking body of a white wine. The best of both worlds!

Rose wines are really interesting wines. First off, they are made the same way that red wines are. The only difference is that the skins of the grapes are pulled off early. This is usually after a few days (the longer they are left on the darker the color of the wine) . This results in a lighter color (pink instead of red) and less drying, bitter tannins. In Europe, people drink dry rose wines all year long, but here in the US we tend to only drink them in Spring and Summer if at all.

Tip: Drink your roses fresh, meaning current vintage, and the current vintage is 2014. Most roses start arriving beginning of March thru April.

Here is our Top Ten favorite dry rose wines that we are drinking this season:
1. Godelia, Mencia Rose (Spain) $13.99
2. Honoro Vera, Garnacha Rose (Spain) $7.99
3. Parusso, Nebbiolo Rose (Italy) $14.99
4. Chateau Montaud, Grenache Rose (France) $10.99
5. Bieler, Rose (France) $9.99
6. Charles and Charles, Rose (California) $11.99
7. Mas de Gourgonnier, Rose (France) $14.99
9. Olivares, Monastrell Rose (Spain) $9.99
10. Crios, Malbec Rose (Argentina) $12.99

A snapshot of Great Rose Wine Regions:
French- These tend to be light, strawberry inflected easy drinking wines made for warm weather and light foods.

Spanish- These tend to be darker, dryer rose wines that can stand up to nice summer BBQ fare without losing a beat.

Italian- Mostly made from heavier grapes like Nebbiolo, these wines like their Spanish neighbors are richer and hold up to heavier, meatier foods.

Portuguese- These tend to be light wines that are refreshing.

American- These tend to be medium weight wines that go great by themselves, but have enough weight to stand up to lighter summer meals.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cameron Hughes Wines

California's Wine Negociant
(& Our Latest Tasting Table)

Our Tasting Table is open for sampling everyday now (not just on the weekends). We run a set of wines for two weeks and then switch them up. To "kick it up a notch" we offer 20% off these wines if you buy any three bottles (you can also purchase them here). For the next two weeks we will be looking at one of California's premier wine negociants. A negociant purchases grapes and makes wine but does not own any of the grapes or vines. Cameron Hughes travels all over the world looking for delicious juice that he can blend and sell under his own wine label. In rare cases he is also able to buy already made wines from other wineries (such as high end wineries) that need fast cash. The deal is that he does not disclose where he got the wine from (Opus One does not want it known that they are selling their $200 a bottle juice for $50 a bottle to Cameron Hughes).

Overall, Cameron Hughes is able to secure good wines at a good price. This allows everybody to enjoy wine that is not ridiculously inflated in price due to wineries trying to create luxury brands.

Here are the wines we are featuring for this set (05/07/15 to 05/21/15):

Cameron Hughes, Lot 465 Chardonnay  ($10.99)
Monterey County, California 
This is our best-selling white wine every year. Barrel fermented in new American oak with full malolactic fermentation, this style of Chardonnay suits the Arroyo Seco sub-appellation of Monterey County to a T. While 2012 was a fantastic comeback for this wine (since frost decimated our chances in 2011), 2013 is even better than 2012, and as good as the vintage that put us on the map with Arroyo Seco: 2009. -CH

Cameron Hughes, Lot 384 Meritage  ($18.99)
Dry Creek Valley, California 
Lot 384 is composed primarily of Dry Creek Merlot, with a bit of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa to finish the blend. The wine, purchased from a high-end Sonoma producer, was barreled down for 14 months. In a tough vintage, this wine passed with flying colors. -CH

Cameron Hughes, Lot 436 Cabernet Sauvignon  ($16.99)
North Coast, California 
Lot 436 is a delicious Cab sourced from high-end producers in Dry Creek, Napa Valley, and Lake County. This exact same wine originally retailed for $32, and represents an exceptional value here. Same wine, same bottle, new label. If you’re looking for a Cabernet that offers tremendous bang for your buck and is already showing well, this is your winner. -CH

Friday, May 8, 2015

Craft Beer Happenings

     With a new brewmaster, a new line up of brews, and a new look, Otter Creek has truly reinvented itself and is quickly becoming a well respected brewery in the Vermont craft beer scene.  Mike Gerhart became the brewmaster in 2009 and his since given the brewery a completely new vibe.  With big names like Dogfish Head and Magic Hat on his resume, he clearly knows what he is doing. This knowledge is reflected in the almost completely new line up of brews offered by Otter Creek.  The packaging features cartoon drawings of either Mike, his dog, and or his VW bus; and are very eye-catching and inviting.  As we know, packaging is certainly not everything and the real question is do the beers measure up?
     The answer is most definitely yes.  Mike knows what he is doing and this shows in his final products.  He has a small line up compared to many other craft brewers but he uses it well.  His flagship beer, Backseat Burner, is of course an IPA.  With vibrant grapefruit flavors and a pleasant, hoppy bitterness that doesn't overwhelm, this has quickly become one of my go-to IPA's.  Over Easy, which is his take on a session ale, is flavorful and easy to drink.  It's for the most part a toned down version of Backseat Burner yet retains the qualities that many session ales tend to lose.  The current seasonal is Fresh Slice, which is a White IPA brewed with Belgian yeast, clementine, and coriander.  With tons of funky fruit flavor and a refreshing finish, it's a great summer beer and a great alternative to those lemon flavored beers that dominate the market.

     The other Otter Creek seasonals worth checking out include Kind Ryed, a Rye IPA; Citra Mantra, an India Pale Lager; and Over Grown, a Pale Ale.  All are generously hopped and have tons of flavor. Also, keep an eye out for collaborations with other highly notable brewers which appear from time to time.  Mike has pretty much resurrected a dead brand and made Otter Creek new and exciting again as it was when the brewery first hit the growing craft scene back in the 80's.  All of these beers are definitely worth a try! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Wine & Cheese Pairings

Here are some great pairings for wine and cheese from the Cheese Course that make it much easier to understand.  Stop on in for a sample of some of our great artisanal cheeses and don't forget about the cheese happy hour from 4-7pm every Wednesday (25% off the three tasted cheeses) and our Wine & Cheese Pairing Class on Thursday, June 4th at 6pm. Enjoy!

We like to pair our tangy fresh cheeses such as Chevre, Burrata, Feta, Coupole, and Humboldt Fog with wines that are crisp, fruity, grassy and light in color. In some instances, you can even taste the fresh herbs. They go great with wines such as Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Rieslings, Sauvignon Blanc and White Bordeaux.

We find that our Delice de Bourgogne and Brie de Nangis from France both pair nicely with rich white wines or fruity red wines. Specifically we like Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Grenache, Pinot Noir and Beaujolais.

Fruity red wines typically have lower levels of tannin, making them a good pairing with bloomy rind cheeses.  Rich white wines are also nice companions to these cheeses because they are full bodied and rich.

We suggest pairing washed rind cheeses like Taleggio from Italy and Morbier from France with rich aromatic whites, dark beers and extremely robust reds.  We make this suggestion because many of these cheeses are washed in wine that comes from regions that produce Gew├╝rztraminer, Rieslings, and Champagne. These cheeses can also be washed in brine causing them to be salty and therefore pair well with sweet dessert wines.

Recommended Wines: Gewurztraminer, Riesling or Champagne

Blue cheeses such as Roquefort from France and Valdeon from Spain, can have a pungent taste that pairs well with dessert wines and robust red wines.  Try pairing a Sauternes, late harvest Riesling, port or Vin Santo.  Their inherent sweetness balances the “saltiness” that is present in blue cheeses.

Recommended Wines: Dessert Rieslings, Sauternes, Port or Vin Santo

When we think of Cheddars and Asiago Cheeses that dominate this category, we recommend that you pair them with full bodied and aromatic whites or medium bodied reds. Try Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese, or Syrah.  These heavier whites and medium reds have more tannin than the lighter reds, which allow them to stand up to the more mature cheeses in this category.

Recommended Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sangiovese or Syrah

If you like hard cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy and Aged Gouda from Holland, try them with medium to full bodied reds.  We like Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  These wines match the intensity of cheeses that have been allowed to mature and develop in flavor.

Recommended Wines: Zinfandel. Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec