Friday, April 25, 2014

Drink of the day: Troegs Mad Elf

I've never been a huge fan of Troegs Brewing Company. But we got a bottle of Mad Elf as a present this past year, and I've been waiting for the right time to break it out. Today is rainy and gloomy: perfect.

Mad Elf is a very strong Belgian ale (11%) brewed with honey and cherries. It pours an unusual, almost artificial, pinkish-red color, theoretically from the cherries (although I'm not entirely convinced). The taste is much gentler and subtler than I was expecting - I thought it was going to be a fruit-splosion like the Black Diamond Grand Cru that Florence and I had several weeks ago. Instead it's slightly sweet and fruity but not overwhelming, and less boozy that I was expecting as well. It's surprisingly well-balanced, although it could do with a bit more bitterness to counteract the fruit and alcohol. Worth a try if you like fruity Belgians.

And it came with a tulip glass, which is most excellent.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Drink of the day: Millstone Gingeroot cider

The title of this series has already changed: tonight I'm writing about cider! Millstone Cellars is a small cidery and meadery in Monkton, Maryland, about 35 minutes from where we live. They've restored a beautiful 1800s grist mill and miller's house - it's worth visiting for the architecture if nothing else. Florence and I went with some friends last month for a tasting and tried several of their ciders and meads. The first one we're drinking is Gingeroot, which is (unsurprisingly) a ginger-infused cider.

At the tasting I remember it being okay, if not particularly great - it was slightly sweet and overwhelmingly gingery. The person running the tasting mentioned that Millstone's sparkling ciders, of which Gingeroot is one, can be aged for a few weeks to allow the residual yeast to ferment the remaining sugar. Not liking sweet alcoholic drinks, we did that and opened it tonight. It's very different from the version we tasted. Now the cider is slightly sour and more evocative of apples than strictly tasting of apples. It's hard to explain - I've heard it described as a French cider style rather than a British one. It's still gingery, but the sourness balances that flavor much better than the original off-dry version did at the tasting. Well worth the purchase if you live nearby - Millstone is also available at several stores in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Carroll County. They also ship to Maryland addresses in accordance with the state's new law on direct-shipping, but the shipping is fairly steep.

Millstone Cellars
2029 Monkton Road
Monkton, MD 21111
Tastings most Saturdays and Sundays 12-5pm

Friday, April 11, 2014

Beer of the Day: Allagash Odyssey

I've decided to start a new series on interesting beers I come across, inspired by my recent membership in the craft beer club of College Square Liquors, my Friendly Local Beer Store. Every week I get an email with a list of new beers they have in stock, and I happily head over to the store and buy a couple to try.

A few weeks ago, that list contained Allagash Brewing Company's Odyssey. I've known about Allagash since I visited Portland (Maine) a few years ago - they're an excellent brewery, so this was worth checking out. Some research told me that Odyssey represents one of my favorite beer styles - the dark wheat beer. It's sort of a hybrid dark wheat/Belgian to be more accurate, but I let that slide. Dark wheat beers (or dunkelweizen in German) combine two styles I love into a wondrous whole. I had one with my cousin in Toronto a few years ago - sadly, I can't remember if it was Erdinger or Paulaner, but it remains the best beer I've ever had.

So I had to try the Odyssey. It comes in a 750 mL bottle with a champagne-style cork top, which I've come to love. No special equipment needed - just wrist strength and care. It's ultimately much closer to a wheat than a Belgian - no syrupy, fruity, or boozy flavors that I normally associate with Belgian ales. Actually, it's remarkably clean and subtle considering the ABV is just over 10%. Instead, it's much closer to what I was hoping for - a dunkelweiss. It's slightly bitter, more dry than sweet, with the crispness I associate with wheat beer. It's also slightly oaked - not to the point of an Oaked Arrogant Bastard, but it's noticeable and blends very well with the other flavors.

This beer isn't cheap - I paid $15 for the bottle, more than I usually pay for beer. But it's worth every penny, and I'm buying another bottle this weekend if it's still in stock.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

An Easy Sauteed Spinach with Creamy Yogurt Sauce (plus Leftover Yogurt Sauce Mashed Potatoes!)

Your drive-by recipe of the week: I sauteed an entire bag of spinach with a few cloves of garlic (instead of putting raw garlic in the sauce; raw garlic induces an upset stomach in some people), then made the rest of the creamy yogurt dressing from this recipe as written. I've been very into putting plain yogurt into everything lately! I've also been very into putting a fried egg on everything lately, which may have been partially spurred on by the fact that we participated in a meat CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program this winter and were thus given 3 dozen eggs a month...

There was a lot of yogurt sauce left over from this recipe, which got recycled into these a few days later:

The yogurt sauce just gets used in place of milk or whatever other liquid you would mix into your mashed potatoes at the end. I think I still used a little bit of butter to soften things up as well.