On The Shelf – Sierra Nevada Brewing 2014 Narwhal Imperial Stout

By The Gentleman

Before I begin I just want to say that anyone who doesn’t like annoying, kind of funny, repetitive Internet songs that get stuck in your head for a decade should probably stop reading right now…okay are they gone? Good, then let’s begin.

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I want to take you back over ten years, to a time before YouTube, when finding hilarious online videos usually involved a trip to Newgrounds or some other Flash video portal. During this time there was one particular Flash cartoon creator who was like the Devil incarnate for catchy Internet videos : Jonti Picking and the Weebl Stuff website. Picking had a gift for creating repetitive songs that could drill deep down into your brain. Years after seeing a video you’d still find yourself humming along to Magical Trevor, Badger, Badger, Badger, or the Kenya song. Once you heard one of these songs it was impossible to forget it. Someone starts talking about Kenya (or Norway…more like Snoreway!) and all I can see is little dancing Lions and Tigers and all I can hear is an Englishman singing “Come to Kenya” with a really annoying trumpet accompaniment. Basically the point of this is the whole time I was drinking the Sierra Nevada 2014 Narwhal Imperial Stout all I could think of was “Narwhals! Narwhals! Swimming in the ocean causing a commotion coz they are so awesome”:

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I’d like to talk about the delicious thick, creamy, brown head and the big, rich, roasted coffee and chocolate flavour of this Imperial Stout, which smelt just as good as it tasted and went down surprisingly smoothly with little bitterness or over the top boozyness despite clocking in at a beastly 10.2% ABV, but really all I can think about is Narwhal’s and how they are so awesome. Did you know they are the Jedi’s of the sea AND they invented the shish kebab? Looking at the bad-ass Narwhal on the Sierra Nevada label it’s easy to believe these things. They look like a creature that doesn’t mess about and just gets straight down to the business of being awesome, much like the Narwhal Imperial Stout.

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Apparently the Narwhal Imperial Stout is a beer that gets better with age, but I don’t think I’d be able to have it in the house for any length of time. Every time I see it I’d just start thinking about Narwhal’s and singing that damn song, it would slowly drive me insane. No this is one to drink as soon as you can get your hands on it.

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On The Shelf – Evil Twin Brewing Yin Imperial Taiji Stout

By The Gentleman

Do you know what’s fun? Standing around an open bonfire feeling its warmth while roasting marshmallows. That is until you realise you stink of smoke and your clothes are covered in little flakes of ash. God damn ash. Drinking the Evil Twin Yin Imperial Taiji Stout went a long way in replicating that experience without all that annoying ash. Winning.

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Evil Twin is another of the new Danish gypsy brewers who produce all kinds of crazy beer that are regarded as some of the best new beers in the world. I have to admit I’d seen gypsy brewer mentioned in regards to a few other labels and had no idea what it means. This time I looked it up and it means the company do not have brewing facilities of their own. Instead they collaborate with larger brewers that have excess production capacity. It’s a pretty crazy, but also reasonable idea when you think about it. Not everyone has ‘dat brewery facility money’. The Yin Imperial Taiji Stout, which has a simple but eye-catching label, is brewed at Two Roads Brewing Co in Connecticut and is actually meant to be consumed as one half of a Black and Tan with the Yang Imperial IPA making up the other half. I only had the Yin, but it was damn fine on its own.

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The Evil Twin Yin poured pitch black with a slight mocha head that dissipated very quickly. The beer smelt so smoky with a definite woodiness to it. I almost thought Smokey Bear was going to pop out and ask where the forest fire was. Seriously, I thought the smoke was just going to overpower everything. It was pretty damn intense. Luckily the more you drank it, and the closer it got to room temperature, the more you could pick up on the dark chocolate and more of a roasted flavour in amongst the smoke. I expected some creaminess and maybe a bit of vanilla, but it had quite a dry and bitter chocolate finish, although the last few mouthfuls were a bit smoother. The dry, bitter chocolate finish was definitely pleasant and quite long-lasting. You don’t really scull your way through this beer. It’s more something you sit back on a cold and windy night to enjoy slowly as the booze (and it had a heavy kick to me) tricks your body into feeling warm.

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I’d definitely be interested in getting the Yang to try the Black and Tan. The Yin is pretty bold so I’m really curious to see how the flavours interact and what gets enhanced/toned down. On its own though Yin was pretty tasty and gets bonus points for evoking those bonfire nights. Word of warning though things are still going to smell pretty smoky. The first thing The Lady said when she walked into the room was “it smells like beer…and smoke in here”. You may not be able to get rid of the smell, but at least you’ll have beer and won’t be covered in ash.

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On The Shelf – Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

By The Gentleman

After a short hiatus The Lady and I are back and boy have we come back in a big way with the Kaiju! Beer Double IPA another shining example from the growing Australian craft beer scene.

Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

During our time away from The Cocktail Challenge we kind of got a little bit obsessed with the instant restaurant portion of My Kitchen Rules. The show is just so trashy and awkward, but it’s also quite unintentionally funny. We love Pete and Manu’s serious eating faces where they kind of just stare off into the distance while they are eating the contestants dish and then they turn and look each other longingly in the eye. It’s riveting stuff. When you’ve sat through a few weeks of My Kitchen Rules all the buzzwords and sappy stories about food start to blend into one. One of our favourites is the contestants promise of “big, bold flavours”. A close second is “hero of the dish”. I’m pretty sure you would get rather drunk if you played the My Kitchen Rules drinking game where you had to take a shot every time someone said “big, bold flavours” or some other incredibly cliched food saying. It’s ridiculous. Drinking Kaiju! Beer’s Double IPA we couldn’t help but think that if the beer appeared on My Kitchen Rules the contestants and judges would trundle out the “big, bold flavours” claim. Funnily enough, in this case it would actually be a pretty damn accurate claim.

Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

Kaiju! Beer, who used to be called Monster Mash until a certain energy drink company made them stop, have crafted a monster of a beer. The Double IPA clocks in at a ridiculous 9.1% ABV and 140 IBU and comes in a 500ml bottle. It’s big and it’s damn well bold. The Kaiju on the bottle reminds me of some sort of hop monster, which is really fitting for the beer. It’s a fun and eye catching label that really makes a statement on the shelf. The beer itself pours with an attractive and thick creamy white head and the body is a dark cloudy amber colour. Taking the first mouthful the beer really wallops you right in the back of the throat with flavour. You get some malty caramel flavour and a bit of a bready taste. Really though the beer is all about the hops. They are the ‘hero of the dish’ and they’re big, they’re bold, and they’re bitter. Your whole mouth just gets swallowed up in bitterness that really pushed me to the edge of my tolerance for bitter beer. I was sure this wasn’t going to be The Lady’s cup of tea (or pint of beer), but after getting knocked about on that first sip she settled into it like I did. There is a touch of sweetness in the lingering bitterness to just help things tone down a little. It also makes you feel damn warm from the alcohol content. I’ve had a few high strength beers that didn’t feel too heavy and boozy, but the Kaiju! Beer Double IPA is a pretty heavy and boozy beer.

Kaiju! Beer Double IPA

Now it’s time to crack open another Kaiju! Beer Double IPA and experience some of those “big, bold flavours” while laughing at the latest awkwardness of My Kitchen Rules. Don’t forget to take a shot on every cliche.

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Boozefood – The Entire Beast Beer Bread

By The Gentleman

Beer Bread

As usual Christmas is a time of gift vouchers and, lets be honest, you’d rather get a gift voucher from some obscure relative than have them try and guess what sort of stuff you actually like. Gift vouchers are great, particularly when you can use them on something that will help you make tasty treats, like the cookbook I used my gift voucher on, The Entire Beast: From Ear and Beer to Ale and Tail by former Masterchef contestant Chris Badenoch. Badenoch’s philosophy is all about using the whole animal and treating beer as you would wine, something that can enhance your cooking and dining experience by pairing the right beer with the right meal. I went straight to the one of the easier yet tasty recipes, Beer Bread, because I’m all about beer and baking.

The Entire Beast

Beer Bread

Makes 1 Loaf

375g Self-Raising Flour

40g Raw Sugar

1/2 tsp Maldon Sea Salt

1 bottle (360ml) Baird Brewing Suruga Bay Imperial IPA

20g unsalted butter

Suruga Bay Imperial IPA

Preheat your oven to 170 C and grease and line a loaf tin. Grab a big bowl and sift in your flour, sugar and sea salt. Make sure you sift it otherwise you’ll get an overly dense loaf that’s more like a brick than bread. Mix your sifted dry ingredients to make sure they are combined. Grab your beer and slowly start to pour it in, using a fork to mix the batter. You’ll end up with quite a think and sticky batter that is a bit lumpy. Make sure you leave a little bit of beer in the bottle (a teaspoon or two). Pour your batter into the prepared tin. Melt the butter and add the remaining beer to your butter and stir to combine. Pour the melted beer butter over the top of your batter. This will give it a nice crust on top and enhance the malty, hoppy beer aroma. The recipe says to bake for 50-60 minutes but for me it only took just over 40 minutes. I recommend checking it after 30 minutes and then 10 minutes, sticking a knife or skewer through to see if it is still moist. When your knife comes out clean remove from the oven and leave in the pan to cool for a bit before turning it out onto a cake rack to cool completely. You should eat the bread within 2 days or freeze it, but I seriously think it won’t last that long.

Beer Bread

There are few things nicer than the smell of baking at home and the Beer Bread does not disappoint. It has an amazing aroma that is equal parts baked bread and beer, with the malt and hops of the beer giving it an almost caramel smell with a hint of citrus. Cutting into it for the first time just enhanced these flavours, making me salivate at the thought of that first bite. I was very happy with how much it puffed up to look quite like a rustic loaf of bread and not a brick. It also cut quite easily even though it was still warm when I had the first slice. Seriously you need to enjoy this warm with just some butter and sea salt before you go adding delicious jams or other condiments. The bread also has a lovely texture, it’s dense like a sourdough but definitely a bread texture and not cake. You can really tell it’s bread when you get to the bottom crust, it has that slightly chewy consistency. The Imperial IPA, with its strong beer flavour, imparts a whole lot of malt and hop flavour to the bread. It tastes beery in the best possible way, but it’s not overpowering or out of place. Different beers would give you a different flavour profile, leaving lots of room to experiment, as well as options for pairing the beer with interesting additions like honey, black pepper or various herbs. Experiments that I am more than willing to try.

 

After making the Beer Bread I have a good feeling that The Entire Beast is going to be a welcome addition to my cookbook collection. The bread was delicious and so easy to make and that gives me confidence that the rest of Badenoch’s recipes will be equally as tasty.

 

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Now Serving – Imperial Collins

By The Gentleman

Imperial Collins

The Tom Collins is a classic cocktail that we’ve already experimented with once before to great results. For our latest drink we thought we’d give Brooklyn Brewshop’s suggestion a go and mix the classic Tom Collins with beer. That’s right, gin and beer, the best of friends! Introducing the Imperial Collins.

Imperial Collins

Imperial Collins

60ml Kangaroo Island Spirits Old Tom Aged Gin

30ml lemon juice

30ml simple syrup

Baird Brewing Suruga Bay Imperial IPA

Ice

Lemon slice

 

In a cocktail shaker, shake together the gin, simple syrup and lemon juice with ice. Shake until it gets real cold. Grab a hi-ball tumbler and add one large ice cube. Make sure it’s a large ice cube otherwise you won’t get the layered effect. Pour in your gin mix. Grab your beer and pour directly onto the ice cube so the beer doesn’t froth up like crazy and you should end up with a nice two-tone layer of gin and beery goodness. Garnish with lemon slice and serve with a straw so you can stir the two together.

Imperial Collins

Damn this looked impressive. The layer effect is really cool and we imagine there is some interesting booze science going on here. Admittedly, I was pretty nervous when it came to pouring in the beer. We had some people over and EVERYONE was watching. It was a high pressure situation, which I thankfully aced and everyone was suitably impressed by my concentration face while pouring and the end results. Get those huge ice cubes and layer it up folks. I’m also quite happy with the little bit of head at the top, it reminds you that it’s beer and adds to the look of the drink, providing a third contrasting colour.

Imperial Collins

Of course what you want to know is did it taste good. The Lady was skeptical, mainly because it was her fancy gin and she treats her gin like it’s her child. She was concerned the beer was just going to make it taste weird, but it doesn’t! The sweeter Kangaroo Island Spirits Old Tom Gin is the perfect accompaniment to the strong Suruga Bay Imperial IPA. The malt and hops, that provided some damn fine flavour to hummus, remain quite prominent but there’s this sweet, citrus component that gets stronger as the drink mixes and mellows out a lot of the bitterness of the beer. A lesser gin would get lost in all those flavours. It’s basically a super-fancy and rather boozy shandy that has some great aromas of citrus and hops. It’s not quite as light and refreshing as a regular Tom Collins, but instead there’s more complexity and a delightfully mixed after taste of citrus and hops.

Imperial Collins

In a lot of ways the Imperial Collins is a fitting drink for us here at the Cocktail Challenge. The Lady is a gin fiend and I’m a beer bandit so the opportunity to combine those two things was just too good to pass up. Hoppy, citrusy, and damn fine to look at the Imperial Collins is successful combination of beer and gin.

 

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Boozefood – Baird Brewing Suruga Bay Imperial IPA Hummus

By The Gentleman

Beer Hummus

We here at the Cocktail Challenge think hummus is pretty amazing. Many a lazy evening has been spent convincing ourselves that hummus counts as dinner (for the record, it does in extreme cases of laziness!). We also think beer is pretty amazing too so when I saw the Brooklyn Brewshop had a recipe for beer hummus I knew we had to give it a try.

 

Baird Brewing Suruga Bay Imperial IPA Hummus

2 cans of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup homemade tahini (or shop tahini if that’s easier)

1 lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup Baird Brewing Suruga Bay Imperial IPA

Toasting Sesame Seeds

Toasting Sesame Seeds

First make your tahini, because it is easy as and so tasty. In a pan, on medium heat, toast 3/4 cup of sesame seeds. Stir or shake the pan constantly because the sesame seeds will start to burn quickly. Once they’ve got some nice colour on them remove from the heat and allow to cool. Pour into a food processor and blitz. After giving your sesame a good mix start adding oil to smooth it out. You can do it without the oil but it takes longer and won’t get as smooth. I used Sesame Oil to enhance the sesame flavour, but you could use a mild olive oil or other neutral oil. Add a tablespoon at a time till you get your desired consistency. I opted for about 3 and a half tablespoons of oil. This should make roughly the half a cup you need.

Tahini

Tahini

Now you’ve got your tahini place all the other ingredients, except the beer, in your food processor and blend. Slowly pour in the beer and make sure you push down the sides so everything is mixed in. Blend until desired consistency is reached. If you make your own tahini you’ll probably want to add extra lemon juice and beer, to taste, because the tahini has a pretty intense sesame flavour. Once you reach your desired flavour and consistency refrigerate until party time.

Almost there

Almost there

Baird Brewing’s Suruga Bay Imperial IPA was probably not the best choice for beer hummus. This has nothing to do with the taste, which was a really strong, profound hop and malt flavour that had a really nice richness and just a bit of citrus to the finish. The bottle also looked really nice, a Cocktail Challenge prerequisite, with the fireworks display chosen to represent the beer’s “fireworks-like festival of hop character” giving the label a really bright, colourful look. No, the reason the Suruga Imperial IPA wasn’t a good choice was because it’s damn expensive here in Australia! I only chose it because I’ve had my eye on it for a while, wanting to try some Japanese craft beer, and figured this was a good reason to splurge and buy a few bottles. We only want the best for our readers. Any IPA would be fine.

Baird Brewing Suruga Bay Imperial IPA Baird Brewing Suruga Bay Imperial IPA

Be warned, the recipe makes a lot of hummus! You could definitely halve or even quarter the amount to make just a small quantity for yourself, but we made it for when some friends came over so a lot of hummus wasn’t an issue. It’s also super easy and may start you on a hummus addiction. The homemade tahini definitely gives it a really strong sesame flavour, even with the added beer and lemon juice. We think the beer helped highlight the sesame flavour of the tahini. The hummus was also really rich with some complex flavour from the beers high ABV and bitter hops. Instead of the zingy citrus Brooklyn Brewshop got, our hummus had an almost nutty flavour with just a touch of citrus in the aftertaste and some bitterness. It was really delicious and quite different to any other hummus we’ve had.

Beer Hummus

Beer Hummus is an easy and tasty treat that we think any beer or hummus lover will like and we look forward to it satisfying us on many a lazy evening.

 

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Now Serving – Mango Beer Bellini

By The Gentleman

Mango Beer Bellini

I have a confession to make. It was only this year that I had my first Bellini. Scandalous I know. I blame it on my late introduction to the wonderful world of wine. Once I sampled one though I instantly regretted ignoring it for so long. Oh the mistakes we make when we are young. The Mango Beer Bellini is my way of making up for lost time by taking two things that are delicious, Bellinis and beer, and joining them in holy cocktail matrimony. Prepare yourself for some flavour!

Beer and Prosecco

Mango Beer Bellini

Mango Puree

1 part Matso’s Mango Beer

1 part The Killer Prosecco

Mango pieces for garnish

Mango Puree

Make the mango puree by cutting a mango into chunks and placing it in a food processor with 1/2 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 tbsp water. Process until the mango is smooth and then gradually add more water, a tablespoon at a time, to thin out the puree. You want it to be thick, but pourable.

Mango Beer Bellini

Place mango puree in the bottom of your glass. We used some pretty epic glasses so we used about 2 tablespoons of mango puree. Half fill your glass with Prosecco and then top with the mango beer. Place mango pieces on top to garnish.

Mango Beer Bellini

First off, this drink is so easy to make. Mango purée takes all of 5 seconds to whip up and that’s hardest part, unless you have limited Prosecco cork popping experience like we do. Then the hardest part is not dying when the cork pops off before you are prepared (true story, The Lady was this close to being a one-eyed bandit. Please be careful!). The recipe is also pretty adaptable. Whatever beer you can find you can match with a fruit purée, a strawberry Belgian beer or a grapefruit IPA are perfect alternates. You can also make it as big or small as you like. We kind of went overboard as the glasses I chose were deceptively big so we took calling them Big Ass Bellinis, but regardless of glass size it’s half Prosecco and half beer. Easy!

Mango Beer Bellini

We are also pleased to report that beer and Prosecco go together like peas in a pod. It can go to your head a bit, especially if you decide to use a huge glass like we did (YOLO), but damn it is good. The beer tones down the overt sweetness of the Prosecco and really enhances the mango flavour. The drink also remains quite light and fresh and doesn’t give you that really full beer feeling. Also I shouldn’t have to tell you that the drink smells fantastic, really fresh and sweet mango fruitiness.

 

So next time you’re looking to whip up some Bellinis, oh say for a swinging Summer partay, do yourself a favour and shake things up with a bit with some fruity beer. You will not be disappointed.

 

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