Category Archives: Food: Cooking It, Eating It and Drinking It

Beer Review: Samuel Adams Fat Jack

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a beer review and, in all honesty, it’s probably been a long while since I’ve actually spent any time thinking about the stuff I’m pouring into my stomach. It’s time to slow down and think about what I’m drinking. And we’re going to start off with something season appropriate.

FatJack

As I’ve mentioned before, Sam Adams has a series of limited edition beers that they only release in their larger bottles. I’ve reviewed one or two in the past and they can range from very nice to solid, but underwhelming. They’ll rarely hit one out of the park, but they’re dependable, more complex than average and will allow your typical beer drinker the go outside of their comfort zone without gettin’ too crazy.

Fat Jack is a great example of a Sam Adams craft beer and it’s high on my list of pumpkin ales. A lot of pumpkin beers rely too heavily on spices leading to a lackluster experience. When all you have seasoning your beer is an overabundance of cinnamon, your beer is going to lack any true depth. Most of the pumpkin beers I’ve tried have started off with a strong burst of flavor and then quickly peter out into nothing.

But Fat Jack is solid through and through. You can tell from the color that things are different. Instead of the pale orange typical of its breed, it’s a deep amber color. It has a spiced smell, but it’s not sharp or overwhelming.

It’s a deep, rich beer, with a lot of flavor of pumpkin in addition to the usual assortment of spices. It’s well rounded, bold and heavy, in terms of flavor. From first to last, you get a strong pumpkin ale with a great start and a strong finish.

All in all, this is one of the best pumpkin ales you can get, right up there with my favorite, Pumking. Do yourself a favor this Halloween season and check it out.

I give it a Great Pumpkin and the original Black Christmas.

-D-

 

 

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A Tour of GrandTen Distilled

EDIT: Lonnie from GrandTen sent an email my way and let me know that he enjoyed my review. Also, I am now aware that his name is not Robbie. Correction made!

For whatever reason, most of my experiences around Boston have been centered around brewery tours. Or trying to find a decently priced  sushi restaurant with an atmosphere that we enjoy. But mostly brewery tours. If ever we’re at a loss for something to do on the weekend, there’s a pretty good chance will head on down  to the Harpoon Brewery and see how many free samples we can consume in fifteen minutes.

Yesterday, we decided to continue the trend, but in a slightly different direction. A couple of friends and I went to take a tour of the GrandTen Distillery, which just opened in South Boston last April. It’s about midway between Andrew Station and Broadway Station on the Red Line, although, if you have your druthers, get off at Broadway and walk down. There are a lot less…bones on the sidewalk in that direction.

We’re used to the strictly regimented and tightly coordinated tours of Sam Adams or Harpoon, come in twenty minutes ahead of time, get a ticket for next available tour, muddle around the conveniently located gift shop and then get herded through the brewery by excited youths. At GrandTen, we walked through the door and were immediately greeted by Lonnie.

He asked us if we wanted to go on a tour and then away we went. It was very relaxed, very informal and one of the most easy-going tours I’ve been on. He showed us around the stills and the fermentation tanks and the barrels where their Medford rum and gin were currently aging and I learned there’s more to aging liquors than just throwing it into a barrel and walking away.

Afterward, we went back to the tasting room. GrandTen currently has five different products available and all of which we were able to taste: Wire Works Gin, Fire Puncher Vodka, Amandine, Angelica and Craneberry. Most of the names and references in their products draw from local industries or legends and really help to cement GrandTen as a Boston institution in spite of its youth. For example, Fire Puncher is named for a local man who, in an act of incredible bravery, attempted to put out a fire in the building using only his fists.

All five spirits and liqueurs offer an incredible range of flavors and complexity. Fire Puncher is a vodka that was distilled with chipotle peppers and then aged, giving it a smokey flavor with a deep, slow burn. Wire Works gin is the gin you offer to your friend who does not like gin. It lacks the usual sharp, piney flavor of most gins, and goes for a more rounded, citrus flavor. The juniper berries act as a bind for all of the other flavors, giving the gin a mellow and more delicate taste, instead of being the one, overriding flavor.

And while normally I’m not a big fan of liqueurs because they’re usually saccharine sweet and a little too thick, GrandTen’s selection all hits the right notes without dumping a metric ton of sugar on your palate. While I’m not normally a big fan of amaretto, Amandine just hits in the right ways, while Angelica is a flowery fruity concoction. Craneberry is astonishing in its drinkability, but I don’t really want to talk about it so much, because they’re almost out.

The most exciting thing about all of their products, but their liqueurs in particular, is their potential in cocktails. As Lonnie pointed out, their strengths are their ability to enhance and brighten other drinks. They would all be powerful and useful tools for people who love to experiment with new cocktail creations.

All in all, if you’re in the Boston area, I recommend checking out the GrandTen Distillery tour. And, if you can’t take the tour, you can always track down their products here.

I would give them five out of five Hours of My Saturday Morning.

BONUS FACT: The tour is free!

-D-

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Beer Review: Samuel Adams Third Voyage

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For a long time, I had a love/hate relationship with IPAs. They were too bitter, too strong tasting, too hoppy. Now I feel like I could go the rest of my life never drinking anything else. So when I saw a new Sam Adams Double IPA, (Third Voyage) I ran and grabbed my specially designed, high tech Sam Adams guzzlin’ glass and filled it to the brim with hoppy.

And I’m underwhelmed. I’m never happy with an ordinary IPA. I want to be sandblasted with flavor. I want to have trouble finishing the whole glass because the flavor is punching me in the uvula with a ferocity that could only be equaled by Jake LaMotta roid ragin’. I want my taste buds to be knocked out so hard that the only thing they’ll be able to handle is watered down PBR.

The problem with Third Voyage is that it’s too….nice. There’s no bold flavor at the front and there’s no bold flavor at the back. It’s smooth, almost downright mellow and it’s ticking me off. It hits all the right notes, but not with the right intensity. It has a sharp bark, but no bite. It has that bitter finisher, but not that throat puckering grab that some IPAs have.

It’s a perfectly good Double IPA, sweet and grapey and strong, but it’s just not the IPA for me. I recommend it if you’re not into ultra-hoppy IPAs like Harpoon’s Rye Ipa.

I give it half a hop and a skip.

-D-

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A Place of Our Own

Emily introduced me to sushi a few years ago and, since then, we’ve gone to about six or seven places in the Boston area and never more than once. None of the places we went to were necessarily bad (except for the one in Somerville where the waitress corrected Emily in the most condescending manner possible. Good fish though.), but there was just nothing there to make us come back.

But now I think we’ve finally found a place that’s worth revisiting a second time. We went to Cafe Sushi in Cambridge tonight and it was one of the better sushi places I’ve been to, either in Boston or anywhere else. It’s a middle-sized place, definitely larger than some of the hole-in-the-walls we’ve been to recently, but nowhere near as large as Fins. The waitstaff were friendly and helpful and it’s convenient to get to, especially for the car-less.

Now, the fish was good and I enjoyed the rolls, but that’s not what sold me. They have craft beers! From Japan. Of course, I managed to go through almost their entire selection of Japanese beers, but not all, so I still have a reason to go back again. They serve beer brewed by Hitachino Nest, which has the most adorable owl mascot. I tried the Sweet Stout, the White Ale and the Red Rice Ale, all of which were uniquely flavored and delicious in their own ways.

The White Ale is crisp, sweet and refreshing. The sweet stout, very smooth, mellow and also very refreshing. The Red Rice Ale was extremely fruity and sweet. Emily said it tasted like gummy bears and I think that’s the best possible description. It was a great trio of beers and if I can find them outside of Cafe Sushi, I’ll definitely pick them up.

If you want great sushi, great beer and without a hefty price tag, I recommend checking out Cafe Sushi.

I give it four owls. In their nests. Eek! They even have a little owl icon for the Chrome tab.

-D-

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Brewing an Education: Porters and Stouts (Part IV)

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The only way to gain an education in anything food related is with a lot of practical experience. If you want to know how to make bouillabaisse, you need to make bouillabaisse. If you want to know how rabbits taste, you need to taste rabbits (poorly worded, will fix later).

Similarly, with beer, you need to get out and drink a lot of beer. You can’t just read in a book about the flavor of hops and the intensity of aromas. That only teaches you the vocabulary and the techniques. But, after that, you’re on your own.

So I’m drinking more beer is what I’m saying.

I’m trying another porter, this one Samuel Smith‘s Taddy Porter, an import from Yorkshire. Seeing as how both porters and stouts are a British invention, a lot of what you’re going to find in your local grocery or liquor store are going to be imported from across the way.

I’ve had a few porters and a few stouts since I’ve started this project and this porter is little less flavorful and a little complex than some of the other porters I’ve had. It had a fruity aroma, again bringing to mind cherries. The flavor is more chocolate than coffee, a little more hoppy than I’d expect.

It’s very crisp and smooth, with a small bitter flourish at the end. It’s refreshing, a good beer for summer and spring.

All in all, I can see myself ducking in a bar on a the tail end of a summer day and ordering this to cool down, but it’s far from the complex intensity of Zwiec’s offering.

A handful of cherries and a glass of lemonade for this porter.

-D-

 

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Brewing an Education: Porters and Stouts (Part III)

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Continuing on along our education of stouts and porters, we have come across our first porter. Now, from everything I have read, porters are a bit of a mystery. Once, a long time ago, porters were an extremely popular form of beer of which stouts a type. But, along the way, porters fell by the wayside and, eventually, people stopped making them entirely. The last porter brewed was by Guinness and they stopped in the mid-seventies. Then, after a good twenty years, people decided to bring back porters based on half-forgotten recipes and old myths of what porters were supposed to be.

As a result, there’s not a lot of consensus of what a porter should taste like, because, in truth, no one knows what one should taste like. Different breweries try their hand at porters and they all come up with different answers to the question: what is a porter?

Today, I tried Zywiec‘s Porter and if all porter’s taste like this, I would drink them more often. It has a very hearty, fruity aroma out of the bottle and the taste followed suit. It tasted like dark cherries, sweet and heady and full of flavor. It had a very smooth and full mouthfeel without being thick and syrupy.

For a type of beer with close ties to stouts, I was surprised to find how refreshing it was. It was clear and strong and wasn’t overwhelming in either texture or taste.

It was very decadent, sweet without a lot of bitterness. I would serve it with a dessert, but a less rich dessert like a white cake or  some vanilla ice cream  It was a great beer, maybe not one that you would all the time or one after the other, but definitely a beer that you would have every once in a while as a way to remind yourself of how different beers can be from one another and how good those differences can be.

I would give this one three chocolate covered cherries and two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

This rating system might prove to be prophetic considering an entry I have planned down the line.

-D-

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Brewing an Education: Stouts and Porters (Part 2)

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I’ve been reading a book called Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher and I’ve been using it as a guide to beer tasting (obviously). While I already knew some of the basics (checking the clarity, the color, the aroma) I was/am still very much a novice. The best part about this particular book is that it goes into great detail about absolutely everything to do with beer; from how taste buds work to the history of particular brewing styles to the chemical compounds that produce the specific flavors. You get what you want from the book. If you’re not interested in a chemical breakdown of the smell of beer, you can always move ahead to the history of the stout, instead.

Speaking of stouts (and leaving this very forced segue behind), the Founders “Breakfast Stout” is next up.  After the last two, fairly disappointing stouts, the “Breakfast Stout” is pretty amazing. It has a well rounded and smooth mouthfeel, which is, apparently, common of oatmeal stouts. It’s a hearty beer and one that’s best suited for cold winter nights when the snow is falling and you’re warm and snug inside and full on heavy beer.

There is a strong coffee flavor, especially at the start, strong, black coffee. If diners served beer, this would be on the menu.

It’s a little sweet, but ends with a bitter flourish that’s very reminiscent of an IPA. All-in-all, it’s a very satisfying experience. I can see this being paired well with roasts and potatoes and steamy rolls with melted butter.

I give this one two baked hams and a crackling fire.

God, I’m hungry.

-D-

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