Saturday, April 16, 2011

Catching up, sort of

For the record, I really want to write a post about different hops, malts, yeasts, and all the other random cool facts I've been learning lately. But that requires time. Time that I don't seem to have. In the meantime, I'll lean back a little more toward food.

As any regular or occasional reader of this blog knows, I like to push the locavore idea. A lot. But as I will quietly (and guiltily) admit, I am not always great at following my own advice when it comes to sticking to local production and seasonality. In fact, as I look back at what I purchase and cook and consume, I follow the seasonal doctrine far less than it seems like I should. Truth is, I just haven't found the balance between what I want to have around and what is available. And I'm lousy at preserving things for use out of season.

Since market season is kicking in around here, my pledge is this: to the best of my ability, produce that we prepare over the next several months (and perhaps longer) will be grown in season and locally when possible. My inspiration for this has been the kale and carrots I've purchased over the past couple of weeks. They reminded me what it was like to have food that had real flavor and real connection to soil near us. The next impetus was actually working on a friend's farm (more on this in another post); I hope to do this more in coming weeks and have a better appreciation for what connects us to what sustains us. The final push was using a rutabaga in tonight's red curry. It was a last minute whim, and one I'm glad for. The flavor was delicious, and it was nice to take a step or two out of my box. Moreover, it was good to see the kid eat it and enjoy it.

So... if I can be good about it... and find the time amidst work, parenting, trying to start a business, and life in general... stay tuned for a balance between posts about beer and posts about seasonal eating and connections to where and how food is grown in the region. Hell, maybe I'll even get into canning and pickling. If all goes well, this may even connect to how the ingredients for beer can be produced locally. So, yeah... stay tuned.


Friday, April 01, 2011

A follow-up note on the Coldwater Cru

Russian River Brewing hosted a crowd of brewers for a symposium on sour and barrel-aged beers last week. I had the pleasure of being there, and we contributed the Coldwater Cru. It was one of a dizzying array of beers offered to a crowd that pushed 250 and spilled between the fermenters and barrel-aging areas. Food was provided by Sean Paxton, the homebrew chef himself. The list of breweries with representatives there was truly stellar, from giants like Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn and the Russian River crew down to a couple of ne'er-do-well startups.

There were good beers — stellar beers — and rare beers. New Glarus was there with some interesting bottles, and Allagash brought a run of their coolship bottles. Cantillon and Brasserie de la Senne were there with some treats not easily found in the states. There were some bad beers — a lesson that even good breweries can make mistakes, and a lesson that not every beer should be soured or aged. In general, though, it was an incredibly educational and inspirational experience.

Our Coldwater Cru fared pretty well. I say pretty well because we discovered inconsistencies in the bottles. Some were progressing better than others. In general, we discovered that the beer was sick, however. And we discovered that this is a good thing. At the shortest version, it meant that the beer hadn't had enough time to convert the various yeasts and bacteria into a finished product. Sick meant that it was still young, and that it was still evolving. It would be one thing to hear this from homebrewers, but we heard it from one of the top voices in Belgian beer — Yvan de Baets, a specialist in sours and ales. He carefully explained that the flavor profile was ideal and outlined what the beer would go through as the "sickness" cleaned up. And he started pouring it for everyone around us and extolling its virtues. This was, shall we say, a very proud moment.

In the end, we headed back to the hotel with a mind-blowing array of names and faces — and a realization that it is possible to drink too much sour beer at one time.