Harvest to play host to pre-Forecastle Sierra Nevada beer dinner

sierra nevada beer dinner july 11Sierra NevadaSierra Nevada makes great beer. I’m particularly fond of Hop Hunter IPA, and the Harvest series.

Still, it’s kind of weird that the California-based brewery is the beer sponsor for Louisville’s biggest music festival. Hey, I understand that sort of sponsorship costs a lot of jack; still, wouldn’t it be cool if one day Against the Grain can fill that role? Maybe one day.

Anyway, LeeAnne Porter from Sierra Nevada will be the guest speaker at a beer dinner hosted by Harvest Restaurant on Monday, July 11. A meet-and-greet starts at 6:30 p.m., while the four-course dinner itself begins at 7. There will be five Sierra Nevada beers, including Raincheck Stout. The dinner is $55 per person.

Here’s the menu/itinerary:

6:30 Doors Open

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale served as greeting beer

7:00 Dinner Sitdown

~ one ~

citrus cured Lake Barkley silver carp

tomato water, jalapeno, wheat berry

beer pairing

Sierra Nevada “Otra Vez” Gose-style ale brewed with cactus & grapefruit

~ two ~

Rivercrest Farm rabbit “wurst”

basil-fava puree, green tomato mustard

beer pairing

Sierra Nevada Summerfest Crisp Lager

~ three ~

jerk spiced Kentucky bison shortrib

charred carrot, black bean, napa cabbage

beer pairing

Sierra Nevada Rain Check Stout

~ four ~

“Bluegrass” cheese plate

“St. Paulin” mild creamy, “Foxglove” double cream wash rind, “Sophia” bloomy ash rind goat cheese

beer pairing

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum Imperial IPA

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The story of a neurotic dog and a nasty spring thunderstorm (with beer)

"Please, sir ..."

“Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat perhaps?”

I realize this is a beer blog. But I have to get this off my chest, and if you are a pet owner, you’ll no doubt recognize this story as being similar to one or many you’ve experienced. And I promise that at some point I will mention beer.

It is roughly 10:45 on Thursday, April 2, 2015, when I decide to turn in for the night. I hadn’t had good sleep the night before and was ready to get a solid eight if at all possible. The only thing that stands between me and sweet rest exists in the form of a 25-pound Lhasa apso named Darby, a furry ball of neurosis and affection that is legendary for being afraid of storms. And April in Louisville means there will be storms.

The thunder and ran have already begun, but Darby is fast asleep on the hardwood surface of my living room floor. I figure I will simply pluck him up, carry him off to bed, and he’ll be none the wiser. I do so, and while he does stir, he does drowsily so, and quickly collapses onto the bed next to me while I set the alarm for 7 a.m. and turn off the light. My mind races from a busy week, and sleep does not come fast enough. Well, not fast enough for Darby and his runaway emotions. A thunder clap, then another, and then I feel Darby stir and rise. Within seconds, I feel the familiar womp on my forehead – Darby’s bigger-than-you’d-think right paw slapping me to let me know that he needs comforting. Or maybe treats. Or a chance to urinate out of doors. Or a beach house in Bermuda.

You see, Darby’s face is usually an Ewok-style tangle of fur and ears, with a pair of raven-black eyes that pierce any and all around them. His expression seems to be in a perpetual state of saying, “Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat, perhaps?” Remember when you were a kid and you would make faces at your sister or in the mirror to entertain yourself, and your parents would tell you if you did it too many times your face would stick that way? I’m pretty sure that’s what happened to Darby somewhere along the way.

Anyway, I open my eyes, and Darby hovers above me. He shoots a short, low whine in my direction. I put an arm around  him and say, “Darby, it’s OK. Go back to sleep.” Yeah, that never works, but I always give it a shot. He sits there staring through my eyelids and into my soul. Another thunder clap. Another womp on the head. I look at the clock by my bedside, and red LED numbers shoot me a mocking display of “12:24.” OK, I’m going to bet on urination. Why? Because storms make Darby anxious, and anxiety makes Darby pee. So I get up and let him out into the backyard. Meanwhile, I retire to the bathroom myself because, well, what else am I going to do while he relieves his anxiety, so to speak?

I linger a bit, giving him time to do his business, and then I return to the back door. And Darby, this little furry creature who is terrified of spring storms, has planted himself at the far end of the yard and is looking around like its a crisp autumn day and he’s enjoying the sun on his skin. Meanwhile, lightning cracks in the distance and big, fat raindrops fall from the heavens.

“Darby! Come in here!” Nothing. He just stares at me with those eyes. His head cocks a bit as if to say, “Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat, perhaps?” Meanwhile, the neighborhood, other than the looming storm, is quiet. I split the relative calm with my voice.

“DARBY!!”

He sits perched on the wet grass, paws stretched out in front of him, looking about as if he has spotted a phantom butterfly. Under my breath, I utter curse words I dare not use in this post, and then I launch myself at my bedroom closet. You see, at this point, I’m in nothing but a Corky Miller “Fear the ‘Stache” t-shirt and a pair of gray boxer briefs, and nothing else. And now I have to cross the yard in a thunderstorm to retrieve my dog – who is terrified of thunderstorms but won’t come in out of one.

I grab a pair of plaid man-jammie bottoms (shut up, you own some too) and set out across the yard, barefoot. My feet sink into the mud as I approach Darby who, when I approach, seems surprised to see me. (“Hey, I didn’t know you were gonna be here too!”) So I reach down to snatch him up, and he lets out a yelp. Not sure if he was just being dramatic, but I figured that now my neighbors all will assume I am a pet abuser – unless of course they and their dogs are fast asleep like they should be at this point in the evening.

I carry a suddenly limp Darby back into the house and place him on the floor of the bedroom, where he plops down and begins scratching himself as if nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, I go to the bathroom to wash my feet. The bottoms of my man-jammies are soaked, so into the hamper they go. I head back to bed, and I see that Darby has settled onto the bedroom floor and appears to have dozed off. This is my chance. I climb into bed, yank the covers over me and glance at the clock. It’s 12:58. Still time for a reasonable night’s sleep.

But because my brain has turned back on, sleep eludes me. I lie there and note that Darby is not only snoring lightly but at one point has one of his trademark dreams in which he jerks about, whines and flails his feet. Finally, he has settled down. Then I sense a lightning strike through my closed eyelids. Boom! More thunder. Minutes pass, but I’m not sure how many. The rolling thunder returns, and I can feel the storm intensifying again. (You can smell a storm, hear a storm, see a storm, but most of all I think you can feel a storm. I like sitting on the porch watching them roll in when I’m not in desperate need of sleep.) And after an undetermined amount of time during which I may or may not have dozed, I feel and hear something familiar: Darby is scratching at the edge of the bed. Oh no. God, no. I feel the sheet pull as he scratches over and over, and then I hear his patented whine that resembles a 3-year-old saying, “But pleeeeaaase?”

I lift my dry, weary eyelids and he stares me down from about a foot away. Those black eyes storm into my brain. I lift him up onto the bed, hoping he’ll lie down next to my leg and sleep, as he usually does. Instead, he walks toward my head and, good grief, steps over my neck, and stops. Stops! Now he’s straddling my neck, just standing there, and I know if he decides to lie down there, I’ll surely choke to death. I say, “Darby!” And he in turn rises up, plants his paws in my chest and holds himself there, staring at me.

“What do you want?” I say. A whine, and then he’s straddling my neck again. He soon moves, thank goodness, but as I try to turn over on my side, he’s back on me, and now he’s got his body leaning against my chest with his paw and head on my neck. He trembles as the thunder bellows outside. He stands again and womp! Right on the temple. “Darby, go to sleep!”

With that, I roll back onto my back, which is my undoing. He then situates himself across my shoulder, with his butt end in my armpit. My left hand is above my shoulder on my pillow, and that’s where he lays his head, right in my palm. He is somehow awkwardly facing me now, half lying down on his right side and half suspended somehow like a see-saw on a playground. His right paw then raises awkwardly up and womp! Right on my left cheek. Except this time, it stays there. So, I’m lying there in the middle of the night, listening to a thunderstorm, with a Lhasa apso doing some sort of weird canine yoga on my arm, and a big, wet furry paw pressed into my face. And he pushes. Within maybe 30 seconds, he begins to snore. He’s falling asleep in this ridiculous position! So, naturally, I start to giggle in spite of it all. It all seems so ridiculous that I feel like I must be in some sort of bad cable sitcom. And then Darby wakes up again. Womp!

I decide it’s no use – Darby isn’t going to sleep anytime soon, and neither am I. So I peel the covers away, grab my phone from the nightstand, and then I have an idea. He has a couple of shirts that my girlfriend bought him, and I’ve heard that dogs are often comforted by wearing padded jackets during storms. I decide to put a shirt on him to help comfort him, and as I approach him with one, he immediately goes limp, like I’m trying to perform midnight surgery. So now I’m on the floor wrestling with trying to get a shirt onto what amounts to a furry ventriloquist dummy. When I’m done, he just lies there on his back looking at me with those eyes. “Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat, perhaps?”

I head to the living room to turn on the TV, wide awake. It’s now well past 2 a.m., and I’m staring at all the flood warnings on the flatscreen. I linger for a while, changing channels – did you know sometimes they play “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” in the middle of the night in April? – and then suddenly realize Darby is eerily silent.

Time: 3:10 a.m. He sleeps, while outside the storm rages on.

Time: 3:10 a.m. He sleeps, while outside the storm rages on.

I look down at the floor of my living room, and Darby is in almost exactly the same spot he’d been hours before. I’m sitting there now, in a Corky Miller t-shirt and underwear, watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” and drinking a a Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA (told you there would be beer) at 3:10 a.m. on a Thursday night while this damn neurotic dog sleeps through one of the best storms we’ve had so far this spring. He is twitching. He snores. I shake my head. I let him lie there until around 3:30, when there is a short lull in the thunder. I click off the TV, pick up his limp little sleeping body and again carry him off to bed. I place him gently on the floor next to the bed and quietly crawl under the covers. There is only the sound of my bedside fan now, as the thunder has trickled to a distant rumble.

But my brain is still turned on. I toss and turn, trying to turn off, and I hear Darby is having another dream. Probably chasing rabbits or asking strangers for treats. I look up, and the red LED numbers tell me it’s 4:28. And then I hear a thunderclap. Oh god. Another. And now I hear him stir, the vile beast of the night. The creature whose very existence at this moment I curse. My solid eight is long gone, and now it looks doubtful for a solid two. Scratch. Whine. I keep my eyes tightly closed, hoping he’ll think I’m asleep and lie back down. And then I hear that familiar whine. “But pleeeeaase?”

I open my eyes, and his face is once again a foot from mine. In the dark, my mind reeling from lack of sleep, I think I hear him softly whisper, “Please? Just one walk, sir. Or a treat, perhaps?” I pull him up into the bed and he finally, mercifully, settles into my leg, props his chin on my ankle as a pillow, and sighs that big familiar sigh of “good night.” I finally, mercifully drift off to sleep.

Three hours later, after having set a world record for hitting “snooze,” which reduces my universe to repeated nine-minute increments like I’m in some psyched-out Christopher Nolan film, I begin to wearily emerge from my linen cocoon. Dim light shines in through the bedroom window. Darby has now taken over at least two thirds of the bed. I outweigh him by 175 pounds, but somehow he has pushed me to the edge of the bed where one of my big, dirty feet dangles. My shoulders emerge into the morning, followed by my chest and torso, then I swing my legs and plant my feet onto the bedroom floor. I collect my groggy brain for a moment as I prepare to go face the day on two hours of sleep. I stand up, pause and then I turn to look at Darby.

He appears to be dead asleep, but then he stirs, and then slowly raises his head. He yawns, his paws stretching out before him and his body tensing as he shakes off his sleep for a moment. He then looks up at me, and meets my gaze. His eyes say something different this time; it isn’t a walk or a treat he pleads for.

No, this look is more like, “What the hell are you doing up so early? Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep?”

12 Days of Beer Gifts

IPA_craft-beer-baskets-for-men-and-women_HR_Fotor_grandeI grew up singing with my classmates and family a song about partridges in a pear tree, and a bunch of other weird gifts over a 12-day span leading up to Christmas. In those days, I was perplexed why the song didn’t include things like action figures and video games, while strongly endorsing go-to presents like eight maids a-milking. How much milk does one person need?

As an adult, I could still skip the milk maids, but I wouldn’t mind some beer. So let’s leave out the pipers piping and the ladies dancing. Let’s concentrate on the beer lovers drinking.

Here are 12 wet and wonderful beers and beer gift packs that should make that beer lover on your list light up like the proverbial Christmas tree or menorah.

  1. Beer of the Month Club: That’s right, once a month, the recipient will be blessed with a twelver of a select craft beer, oftentimes a hard-to-find a limited release, chosen by craft beer lovers at AmazingClubs.com. You can choose a full year or three-month, six-month or seasonal memberships. Packages start at $33.95 per month. When that person’s birthday rolls around, maybe you can look into a liver-supplement-of-the-month club.
  2. Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale: A time-honored classic, Winter Welcome is a winter warmer best consumed while snuggling in front of the fire. Made with Fuggle and Golding hops, it is actually a malt-forward beer made just for the winter season. Bear skin rug optional.
  3. Sweetwater Festive Ale: Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Company has been spreading its tentacles, and this is one of those that is making the rounds. A strong ale brewed for “winter coat season,” it is rife with black, chocolate, Munich and other malts witha taint of cinnamon and mace to keep you warm and toasted all winter long.”
  4. Deschutes Brewery Jubelale: A garnet colored strong ale, this one also features special artwork each season – this year’s is original fiber artwork by Lisa and Lori Lubbesmeyer, showing a winter landscape with a pair of sledders. The beer within reveals hints of chicory, dried fruit and toffee notes with a hoppy kick to finish. Put another log on the fire.
  5. Sam Adams holiday porterIPAs of the U.S. Gift Basket: Here’s a different spin on a holiday gift idea, since not everyone likes the spicy, thick Christmas beers that are the stuff of tradition. If the person on your list just wants to hop it up, this is a selection of India pale ales from Coronado Brewing Company (New York International Beer Competition 2014 California Brewery of the Year), Peak Brewing (NYIBC 2014 Maine Brewery of the Year) , Breckenridge and Ballast Point, as well as the oh-so-delicious Jai Alai from Cigar City Brewing in Florida. This on also comes with a variety of snacks to pair with the beers.
  6. Schlafly Christmas Ale: This is another winter warmer featuring sweet caramel malt, with notes of orange peel, juniper berries, ginger root, cardamom and cloves. Inspired by holiday classics like wassail, it’s a surefire way to ring in the holidays with nary a chill in the bones.
  7. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: First brewed in 1981, this is a true American Christmas tradition, although it isn’t a winter warmer – this is actually credited with being an early version of an American IPA, made famous for its intense citrus and pine aromas. Celebration is indeed a bold and intense beer, featuring Centennial, Cascade and Chinook hops. If nutmeg isn’t your favorite beer lover’s thing, this might be the ideal gift.
  8. Great Lakes Christmas Ale: This beer is brewed with honey and spiced with ginger and cinnamon and is poised to pair nicely with that fruitcake your mustachioed aunt will inevitably bring to the family gathering. Roasted barleys make this one a warmer, and Mt. Hood and Cascade hops give it a spicy kick.
  9. Samuel Adams Winter Favorites Variety Pack: Sometimes you just can’t choose. Enter Samuel Adams and its 12-pack of winter goodness, featuring two each of the classic Sam Adam Lager, Winter Lager, Old Fezziwig Ale, White Christmas and (prepare to start salivating) Chocolate Bock. This is a great one to pack to your holiday work or family gathering for sharing or, hey, for hoarding at home with your sweetie. No judgment here, just prepare for a wide variety. (There’s also Samuel Adams Holiday Porter, sold separately, if you’re feeling more focused.)
  10. Rogue santas_private_reserveRogue Santa’s Private Reserve: This is the one Santa probably drinks. A double-hopped red ale that is a variation of the well-regarded Saint Rogue Red, this one goes straight for a big roast finish and a hint of spruce for just a nod to the holiday season. Made from a wide and eclectic variety of malts and hops, plus proprietary Pacman yeast, it’s moderately bitter at 65 IBU and imminently quaffable at 6 percent ABV. It’s Christmas: the redder, the better!
  11. Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper: Talk about a winter warmer – this is an imperial porter to the max, with a flavor emphasis on dark cocoa and roasted coffee, with sweet crystal malts and light hops. This is a big one at 10 percent ABV, but imagine how good Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies are going to taste dunked in this Christmas winner? You can give it as a gift, but how could you let go of it? It’s OK to be a little selfish at Christmas.
  12. Three Floyds Alpha Klaus: A cousin to Three Floyds’ popular Alpha King, this beer pours jet black with a nose of chocolate, pine and citrus. The chocolaty flavor profile also gives way to a surprising hoppiness, setting it apart from many winter warmers. Many say it drinks more like a black IPA than a Christmas porter, but that makes it no less festive. And at 6 percent ABV, there’s no reason the beer lover on your list can’t enjoy more than one.

This post was originally published by AlcoholProfessor.com.

Indiana Craft Beer Month at Fireside

fireside bar - louisville beerNeil and Patty Smith run a quaint business in Sellersburg, Ind., called Neil & Patty’s Fireside Bar and Grill. Good food, cozy atmosphere, the works. And thanks to their dauther Lauren Smith, who is the general manager, they also have pretty sweet selection of craft beers as well.

It took me more than halfway through the month to make a visit, but my pal Rob and I stopped in to enjoy conversation about baseball and music, while also knocking back a couple. I decided to try everything on tap, even the stuff I was already familiar with. (Luckily, Fireside is more than happy to pour you a two- or three-ounce sample.)

Here’s a roundup of what’s on tap currently:

New Albanian Tafel Bier: 5% ABV, IBU 12. It’s a super light (for NABC, at least) Belgian style brew, with lots and lots of malts. Lots. A tad nutty, with a nose that has a faint sourness to it. Interesting, to say the least.

Three Floyds Gumballhead: 5.6% ABV, 35 IBU. It had been a while since I’d had Gumballhead, brewed in Munster by Three Floyds. It was less hoppy than I’d remembered with more fruity overtones. What a great summer beer this stuff is.

Bloomington Brewing Company Quarrymen Ale: 5.8% ABV, 34 IBU. This was my favorite tap of the night. I tend to love dry-hopped ales, so this one is right in my wheelhouse. Not too hoppy, but still has a bitter presence, if that makes sense. The fruitiness leans toward citrus. I could have had 10 of these, but sadly, I had to drive home.

Sun King Sunlight Cream Ale: 5.3% ABV, 20 IBU. This smooth and, well, creamy ale ended up being Rob’s favorite. Another high quality choice for summer. It’s easy on the hops, but has a great crisp finish and smooth maltiness. Your mom could drink this one.

Oaken Barrel Indiana Amber: 5.3% ABV, 28 IBU. I was never a big fan of Oaken Barrel beers, but that could be because my ex and I used to go there when we’d visit her mom in Indy. Sigh. I don’t miss those days. But this is nevertheless a solid amber ale with a nice caramel quality to it and little bit of a bite. (If you want bite, though, I’d recommend the Oaken Barrel Superfly IPA.)

Flat 12 Pogue’s Run Porter: 5.5% ABV, 34 IBU. Dark, chocolaty and with a big coffee flavor, this one is probably more of a winter beer for my buds. Regardless, this is really just a great-tasting porter. For you Guinness lovers, imagine a Guinness stout times 100. Different styles, technically, sure, but there’s your reference point.

Daredevil Lift Off IPA: 7% ABV. You gotta like any brewery that touts its “aggressively fun beers,” and this one certainly lives up to that tagline. It’s a West Coast-style IPA (think Sierra Nevada) with lots of American hop bitterness and what I perceived as a physical tingle at the back of the palate. In my notes, I wrote, “Sooo delicious. But be careful.” Oh yeah, and Daredevil has the coolest tap handles in the state, bar none.

Anyway, check out the Indiana brew specials while you can. Also, if you like country fried chicken livers, you should check out my Taste Bud article in LEO. Fireside has some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Chilling With Michael Beckmann at Boombozz Taphouse

louisville beer - boombozz taphouse

The Boombozz Taphouse in the Highlands has, well, lots of taps.

Michael Beckmann sells a lot of craft beer at his Highlands Tony Boombozz location. A lot of it. And it’s not just because there is only one non-craft or non-local tap, either.

The general manager and brains behind the beers thinks a big part of what drives craft beer’s popularity is growing rebellion against big corporations. Secondly, people like to drink locally.

“Localness is what drives craft beer,” he said.

He told me this as I sipped a New Albanian Brewing Company Houndmouth, one of several local and craft beers I tried while sitting at the bar with Beckmann and his girlfriend Caroline. His taps are always rotating in new brews, stuff from local and regional breweries as well as from around the world. It’s quite a journey for the taste buds.

I also tasted Southern Tier Live, Widmer Alchemy Ale, Mikkeller Wet Hop Kellerbier, Country Boy Cougar Bait and Sierra Nevada Oliva Quad. I’ll spare you wordy reviews, but the Mikeller reminded more of a pilsner than an ale, and the Oliva Quad was so interesting, flavorful and ripe with plums that my first thought was that it would be delicious poured over pancakes.

Beckmann spoke of how he makes sure his taps always feature local brews, and that he does a “TALL4small” (tall beer for a short beer price) special every Thursday for local brews only. “I love supporting the locals,” he said. “And it works.”

He wants a visit to Boombozz Taphouse to be an experience, versus a get-drunk session; no two beer drinkers are created equally, and yet he also wants to make sure each person’s palate gets some respect. (He said one woman actually wrote a dissertation about how well she was treated at Boombozz as a female beer drinker. Apparently, the bar staff didn’t jump to the conclusion she would want a Blue Moon with an orange wedge.)

louisville beer - boombozz tap room beckmann

Michael Beckmann and Caroline Knopf both enjoy a tasty brew.

And while there is a shortage of such beers in the taps, Beckmann also makes sure there are “simpler” local and craft beers bartenders can recommend to customers looking for a new experience. The house BoomBrew, for instance, is the very drinkable Bluegrass Brewing Company Amber. In fact, in recent weeks there’s been no corporate beer on tap at all.

“We went through April and May without it, and no one complained,” he said. At the same time, “I don’t think anybody here is going to make you feel guilty about ordering a Bud Light.”

So, he makes sure to have the corporate beers always available in bottles, just to be safe.

But for those who like their taste buds to be challenged, the Boombozz Taphouse is a great place to be. Beckmann and his bar staff like to mix it up. Literally. For instance, he recently mixed the Southern Tier Live, Mikkeller Wet Hop and Widmer Alchemy Ale. Another popular blend was a Cumberland Brews Roasted Pumpkin Ale with a Southern Tier Creme Brulee.

“It tasted like pumpkin pie with whipped cream,” he said.

And next time you’re in, be sure to ask him about the seven-stout blend.

Anyway, for Beckmann, his position at Boombozz is like “a play thing.” He likes to not only treat his customers, but to also treat himself.

“And I’ve got the pick of the litter here,” he said.