Posts Tagged ‘winter’

This years Adventures in Food special Christmas beer comes from the Belgium brewery De Dolle and is called Stille Nacht. Apparently Christmas fire sales do not apply only to holiday decorations, apparel, and other Christmas themed items normally found in department stores. I walked into Binny’s to pick up some good wine for my holiday party and found their entire display of Christmas themes beers on sale on an end cap display. I had recently read about Stille Nacht as a faux holy grail to beer lovers around the world and felt that I was never going to get a better price.

Stille Nacht pours a beautiful cloudy, tangerine orange. This is another one of those impossible beers to pour and the head far outweighs the liquid and quickly fills your glass. What I did love, though, was that the head resembled fluffy mounds of snow. I’ve attached a movie below to show the sheer amount of carbonation that lifts from the glass after pouring only 6 ounces into a pint glass. The head is snowy white, but sticky and does not disappear for some time. I  wound up drinking several mouth fulls of head before I ever got to the beer itself. The aroma bursts of sweet malts with bananas, cloves, and tangerines. The first sip immediate burst of sweet malty goodness with a tinge of heavy orange syrup. The spice notes quickly take over and tantalize different parts of your palette until finally a taste of banana takes over before beginning to fade from existence. This is not a gulping beer, in fact, I’m embarrassed that I even poured this into a pint glass at all. This would be a fine sipper drunk straight from the bottle or poured into a snifter.

I want you to know that words cannot accurately describe everything that is going on with this beer. De Dolle clearly has an understanding of what it takes to make a good beer and this is near perfection. I have no complaints, nor any critiques. Any mistake in pouring to create too much head is my own fault. If this beer cheated on me with my best friend at our wedding, I would probably still take it back. It’s that good. However, perfection comes with a pricetag that many might be scared of. You can purchase a 12oz bottle of Stille Nacht only around the Christmas season for around $6 ($4 if you wait for the fire sale). The 12% ABV is prevalent while drinking this beer, but by no means is it overwhelming. I can tell you that you will feel it by the end of your bottle. You probably shouldn’t plan to drink more than two of these in one sitting. Stille Nacht is a perfect beer in my world and should be heralded and replicated year round. It receives the highest rating in my book.

Grade: A+

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Don’t be afraid Sam Winter Lager haters, there is something different about this (and last years) Winter Lager. I typically like the seasonal beers put out by Sam Adams. I reviewed earlier in year the Summer Ale as well as Latitude 48, and the East West Kolsch. However, I had always avoided the Sam Winter Lager mostly because there are so many winter beers that I typically don’t like, that I didn’t want to take a risk. Winter Lager has disappointed me in the past and I’ve run from it in past holiday seasons. However, when a free one is placed in front of you by a kind bartender, you can’t turn it down.

Winter Lager pours a humble brown with a gold tinge to it. The head arrived two fingers tall, but quickly subsided, leaving a small amount of lacing around the glass. Like many winter beers, there was a traditional spice aroma lifting from the glass accompanied by a mild malt flavor. My first sip was pretty bland, but the flavors eventually collided together and I understand what they were trying to get at. Although ginger is the prevalent spice taste, I believe there are elements of nutmeg or perhaps allspice that linger in the background to remind you that this is not a simple beer. Winter Lager has a mild bitterness that is similar to orange peel and contains a pleasant malt flavor. Simply, there is nothing overwhelming about this beer, yet at the same time, there is nothing underwhelming about it either.

I’m from New England and I love Sam Adams. I’m still questioning their status as a microbrew given their mass distribution and seemingly endless production of barrels, but I can get past that because this is yet another example of the kind of high quality beers that they put out year after year in mass quantity at an affordable price. This beer can be found everywhere in New England and most regional areas. I’ve found it at many of the liquor stores, supermarkets, and yes, even drug stores here in the Chicagoland area. You can pick up a 12 pack of Winter Lager for around $15 or a six pack for around $9. You can also find this buried inside the winter variety back alongside the Boston Lager, Sam Adams Light, and another seasonal beer. This is a solid offering from a solid brewery that serves as a pleasant post Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas lager.

Grade: B

At some point, I think we’ve all heard that what has commonly been regarded as “stuffing” should actually never be stuffed inside of anything. While pictures from the 1940s and 1950s showed an iconic turkey bursting with goodness, putting stuffing inside a turkey or chicken actually slows down the cooking process and leads to what I believe is a lesser quality flavor. So yes, for your geniuses out there that will inevitably critique my recipe, this should be called “dressing” and not stuffing, but I suppose if you really wanted to, you could easily stuff this inside a chicken or turkey after everything is cooked separately.

Ingredients

  • 16oz unseasoned croutons
  • 1 lb lean pork sausage (without casing)
  • 1/2 lb thick cut bacon
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 3c chicken stock
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 tsp sage, ground
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1/2 tsp basil, dried

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon strips. You are probably going to have to do this in two batches. The goal is to achieve a beautiful crispiness that will not become soggy once inside the stuffing. Set aside to cool on some paper towels.

2. Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat. Keep the heat on medium high and place the carrots, celery, onion, and apple in the pan. Saute for 5 minutes or until the carrot just begins to soften. Add the garlic, oregano, basil, and sage and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Add the white wine to deglaze. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Place the cooked vegetables inside a large mixing bowl.

3. In the same pan, add the sausage and cook through. You can choose to cut the sausage into small bits, or keep in large clumps. The choice is yours. Cook until you cannot see any pink. Add the sausage to the vegetables.

4. Chop the bacon and add to the mixing bowl with the croutons. Add the chicken stock 1/4 c at a time until the croutons begin to get soggy and fall apart slightly. Combine the vegetable and meat mixture to the bread crumbs. Add to a casserole dish.

5. Cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until the top begins to get crispy. While cooking, the outside will get brown and crispy, the inside will remain moist and delicious. Serve piping hot.

I should have known better, but I went against my better judgement and picked up a six pack of Magic Hat’s winter seasonal beer Howl. In the past, black beers and I have not always gotten along, but in the spirit of trying new things and experiencing seasonal ales as they come out, I figured Howl was worth a try.

The pour revealed a black beer with little head that disperses quickly. The aroma immediately burst of mocha and malt, two overpowering flavors that I try to stay way from in my beers. The taste immediately hits you with a sweet malt flavor accompanied by some kind of toasted note. Howl finishes clean and leaves very little taste lingering in the mouth. What I’m missing is any kind of hop flavor which I am incredibly disappointed in.

Howl comes in a 6 pack or as part of the Magic Hat seasonal pack. At around $8 a six pack, it’s a good buy and should be around well through the winter. I haven’t always been a big fan of Magic Hat in the past and now I’m finding less and less to like about their beers. As a rule, I tend to stay away from black beers, but I wanted to give this one a chance nevertheless. I’m disappointed mostly in the lack of any unique flavor profile or really anything that separates Howl from any middle of the road black IPA.

Grade: C-