Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beer in My Belly Week

Ok preface: I started writing this on October 7th. I have been a wee bit overwhelmed... Everything is written in the wrong tense, but it sounds better that way. Anyway its basically been Beer in my Belly Month, and for that I am thankful.

Now, on to the main attraction:

Beer in My Belly Week

Er, I mean, Beer in Baltimore in my Belly Week. Ok, fine, its just (well, not just) Beer in Baltimore Week. I am so excited, or drunk, I can hardly think.

Ok, I'm not drunk either. However my tummy has been very happy and hoppy for the last few weeks. The 2nd Annual Baltimore Beer Week started on the 7th of October, 2010. I am happy to report that it has grown tremendously since last year, and there are exciting beer events being held in all of the surrounding towns. I even promoted our selection of local beers at work:

In anticipation of BBWeek, Chris and I made it out to ChurckKey in DC, FINALLY. We were so excited we could hardly contain ourselves. They just had their one year anniversary last week, and we have been dying to go since BEFORE they opened! 

I love that they offer their entire selection of draughts as 4oz pours. My only complaint on that behalf is the 4oz glasses are all mini pints, and if anytime I questioned that the glass effects the flavor, this was proof. For example, Chris and I both ordered the same beer, mine a 4oz, his a snifter. The aromatic compounds were still present in my glass, and the beer was incredible, but in comparison Chris' was much more flavorful, and it actually tasted different. 

Cellar Door on the left, Bombardier, Marston's Oyster Stout
Cellar Door in the back, Southern Tier Pumpking, Heavy Seas Great Pumpking, Heavy Seas Greater Pumpking
One of my favorite beers at ChurchKey set the precedent for the rest of the weekend/month. I was finally able to try Cellar Door from Baltimore brewmaster Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales. For the record, Cellar Door is actually the beer Chris got in the snifter, and I had in the mini. Cellar Door is a "Saison" with white sage. All the beers I have tried from Stillwater trump their local competition, they are highly aromatic which is usually a favorite characteristic of any beverage I imbibe. (all this alliteration is awesome).
Cellar Door
I also had the Southern Tier Pumpking (and Greater Pumpking) on draught. The Pumpking was incredible... dark, malty, lots of baking spices, not cloying or super thick, with a nice bitter pick up in the finish. Unfortunately, the qualities of restraint and balance that came on draught don't seem to have followed through to the bottle I picked up at Bin201, before they sold out, THAT day! It was still a nice bottle, but it fell a little flat, and I feel Dogfish wins the bottle prize between the two for their Punkin' Ale this year.

We also had the guys at  make us up a cheese and beer pairing that made me squirm in my seat. 
(L) Montenebro, (C), Tete de Moine, (R) Garroxta
Each delicious bite of fromage with a new beautiful beer, chosen expressly for me! How could I be anything but delirious. I can't remember exactly which beers we had with which cheese. I choose three cheeses and they choose  three beers. We had some Tete de Moine (Monks Head), a very strong cheese that is one of my FAVORITES, a beautifully ripe piece of Montenebro (being perfect made up for the fact that it wasn't what I ordered), and garroxta, which is not my favorite, but I choose it because of its simplicity. I think the beers with the cheese were the Estivale, the Pannepot Reserva 2008, and maybe the Gouden Carolus. Super exciting for me was the condiment-ation. At ChurchKey they make their own condiments, a big bonus to any cheese platter. The platter came with pickled cherries, a peach compote, I think, glazed figs, and honeyed walnuts. I need to do better recording of menu items. Unfortunately I try to go back and cheat on restaurants websites, but this selection apparently changes seasonally. No complaints, I like that idea. But you are probably getting annoyed at all my vagueness. All the alcohol killed some brain cells. 

Ill have to ask chris, because I can't remember which I tried, but one of the beers smelled distinctly of roasted marshmallow. Chris thinks it was the Southern Tier Pumpking.

We also massacred the charcuterie plate, and a fig and prosciutto flatbread. 

Here is a photo of Chris licking the chicken liver mousse out of the container, and his smiling happy face anticipating another lick: 

Its a good thing we were still basically the only people in the joint.

The pizza was decent. However, Chris officially mandated that I need to open a place and serve my pizzas there because mine are better than anywhere else. I was proud to hear that, but this will never happen because I don't make my own dough. Maybe I can employ someone on that front?

These are the beers we tried: Marston's Oyster Stout, Monk's Fest, Estivale, North Coast Red Seal, Brooklyn Brewing Detonation, Brew Dog Paradox Smokehead, Heavy Seas Firkin Greater Pumpkin, Wells Bombardier, Stillwater Cellar Door, North Coast Pranqster, Southern Tier Pumpking, Gouden Carolous, and Pannepot Reserva 2008

All in all it was an incredible trip and I can't wait to go back. This time I'll have to hang out at Birch and Barley. 

Then came the actual Baltimore Beer Week events:

Thursday night was my first trip to Pratt Street Ale House for the release of Channel Crossing V2, a collaboration with Oliver's Steve Jones, and Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales.

Friday, we wanted to go to Max's but ended up at Wharf Rat for the 4 Cask Ales for $5 deal. I have never actually had a drink at Max's because they seem overrun every time I am in Baltimore. Plan of attack: GO TO MAX'S ON A WEEKNIGHT. Who is in?

Saturday, we missed the 00 Day which is a major bummer. All the beers were supposed to be super high alcohol, which in the case of beer almost always means good things. Interesting enough, I am snooty about high ABV Wine because it is usually big and bold and Australian or Californian and I don't usually like it. Beer is a WHOLE nother story. I love rich dark high ABV beers, the alcohol balanced the possibly overwhelming sweetness, and syrupy quality. 

Instead of bmore, we stayed in town for Kristin's Housewarming and had some AMAZING chili and cornbread courtesy of her and her man. I love them more cause they feed me, and themselves. It is never a wasted night when these fins people are around. I opened up the Bell's Two Hearted and the Founder's Devil Dancer, and my favorite (because the sweetness softened the blow of the 9 chili variety chili) the Avery Samael.

Sunday the games prevented us from heading anywhere near Bmore. So we stayed in town and ate leftovers with Kristin and Summer, while drinking... you guessed it, BEER! I've polished off all but two of my stash from cBx!

Monday, however was a great success. Chris an I made a day of it and went to Dawsons for Stillwater. We met Brian "Stillwater" Strumke and tasted his current bottle lineup. We tried Love and Regret, Cellar Door, Stateside Saison, and the Autumnal. We also heard tale of lots of exciting collaborations and plans to expand production.

If you want to know more about how the Stillwater beers are brewed and what they taste like, this is a great article from the Washington City Paper: Beerspotters Interview with Stillwater Artisanal Ales Arian Strumke.

After Dawsons we felt inspired and headed towards good ole' Howard Co. We paused at DuClaw for Devil's Milk Cask, and in a fit of spending hopped off to The Perfect Pour, because we just hadn't had enough to drink yet.  For dinner we went to Victoria Gastropub. I had a wonderful and surprising Weyerbacher Pumpkin and an amazing burger with GASP! delicious pickles! (In case you are unaware, I agree with Mitch Hedberg, almost. He says "pickles are like a cucumber that sold their soul to the devil, and the devil was dill". I'm not a fan of pickles, cucumber, or dill, so a delicious pickle is a feat to be reckoned with, and respected). The chef outdid theirself with these pickles. They were mild bread and butter pickles but they had sesame oil and seaweed in the pickle juice too! So perfect for cutting through the heavy burger. The burger was enough for 3 meals. It was a kobe beef burger with truffled cheese. AHHHH angels and puppies are singing.

Saturday, we made it up to Pratt Street for the Real Ale Festival, and tried a large volume of awesome beer. Kristin has photos of each one in the order we tried them in, so I will eventually post that.

Clearly we didnt have any fun. We look miserable.

Sunday, I got to the 1st Annual Baltimore Beer Festival at the Canton Waterfront Park! This event was cool because some of the brewers and brewery management was on hand to elaborate about their beers. The food was also pretty damn yummy. I helped pour some Stillwater, and we kicked the keg super early because no one could get enough. 

Just a SMALL sample of the beers I tried:

Brian "Stillwater" Strumke

Stillwater/ Raven's Love

Finished the evening at Jack's Bistro in Canton. There was a foie gras and duck sausage appetizer inspired by the infamous Hot Dougs in Chicago. Some sous vide beef, and a zillion oz. pork chop. All yummy. All with some Stillwater ales. 

Look at the beautiful grains of salt upon the lovely luscious rounds of foie gras... drooling. 

pig plate = happiness

The largest pork chop known to man.

The weather was perfect both days of the weekend, and I drank a lot. I am still recovering. 

And yet I have continued to drink more and more beer. This weekend before Halloween I made it up to the Waverly Farmers Market to pickup breakfast. I was cooked some gorgeous Gunpowder Bison Ginger Maple Sausage, with farm fresh sweet potato curry. 

I also had the opportunity to taste the most carbonated beer ever... I believe this is a new import from 12% and they have since adjusted the recipe to correct for the dangerous over-carbonation (the bottle is corked and had been known to fly across the room). 

Last week at the Bin we got in the Stone Vertical Epic, 10-10-10. It is brewed with chamomile, muscat, gewurztraminer, and sauvignon blanc grapes. It is a really gorgeous beer, meant to age for a few years, until stone finished releasing this special series of repetitive number beers :). Here are the real details on the limited bottlings, from Stone. I love this beer because it is so complex that at every moment the temperature rises, the beer tast different, but never worse. Its incredible and the grapes clearly added a lot to the texture, which you notice more as the beer comes to room temp. 

Thats about all the updates I have for now. Lots of new developments in my world. I bet you can't wait for more. Too bad, you have to!

Oh beer, how happy thou hadst made me.