That is a great question actually. I don’t have any overriding love of figs, per se, but I’ve found that I enjoy beers brewed with figs for some reason.
After a day of plundering the anime video section at Hastings in Missoula, my brother-in-law, who is visiting along with my sister and their one-year-old boy, and I decided to pop over to Cafe Dolce to see what beer treasures are currently available.
He joked about a $9.75 beer and the fact that I write about these ridiculously expensive beers for the local newspaper. The server kindly explained that the beer came in a larger bottle then he was probably thinking of.
So I ordered one.
It happened to be a Jubilation Ale from Baird Brewing Company in Japan. I’ve tried one Baird before, and I was impressed enough to remember that they brew a number of interesting fruit ales throughout the year. This particular ale happens to be brewed with fresh-picked Japanese figs and cinnamon twigs.
As we delved into conversation about why I like figs, I smelled the rich and hazy nose familiar of a strong-dark ale with a lot of dark fruits and getup malt in the mix. But this beer drinks remarkably light for a beer with a 7.0 ABV and which is plum full of interesting fruit esters and a hint of exotic spice from the cinnamon twigs.
Neither the figs nor the cinnamon twigs are overplayed in this beer. Instead, the initial sweetness and earthiness of the figs sits nicely on a sweet malt body accompanied by very balanced hoppy note that does not even begin to take away from the fruitiness.
As our conversation wended its way among topics such as my age and the obvious connection to figs and other such prune-like helpers of the old and the infirm to Japanese craft brewing, we quietly polished off the bottle in the delightfully big atmosphere at Cafe Dolce. We perused the beer list several times talking about what to try next, but both of us were pretty stuck on a fantastic beer that just so happened to be brewed with figs and cinnamon twigs.
When I think of salt of the earth, I think of cowboys. I don’t know if the connotation is even correct, it’s just what comes to mind. After sipping on a Cowboy Coffee Porter at Big Sky Brewing Company yesterday, and after beer mavens Mel and Alix spoke of a legendary dessert known only as “The Beer Float,” I decided to call my wife and ask her to pick up some Ben & Jerrys on her way home so I could be reminded of why I love the combination of my favorite adult beverage mixed with my favorite childhood treat.
This is going to be the easiest recipe you’ll ever get. Any person (idiot) can make this dessert. And your friends will think you’ve been attending Le Cordon Bleu on the side.
Beer Float -
One growler of Big Sky Brewing Company Cowboy Coffee Porter (or substitute another dark, rich stout or porter of your choice, but only if Big Sky is out of Cowboy Coffee Porter)
One pint of your favorite vanilla ice cream (I’ve tried it with Rocky Road, and it just didn’t work at all)
Take three good-size scoops of ice cream and put them in a pint glass with plenty of space between them. Then pour the beer slowly around the ice cream until it forms dark and light patches. Take a spoon and taste a little of the beer and ice cream before they blend completely into a chocolaty, coffee, malty, sweet, vanilla-y blessed beverage.
A couple of really cool beer pictures for your Wednesday. These are from Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Oregon. Love their art work here.
Oh, it makes me thirsty just looking at it!
If you’re in Whitefish, help the Great Northern Brewing Company kick off their Tuesday night “Pitcher Shows” with a showing of the film “The Big Lebowski” tonight. There will be a $10 pitcher special from 8:00 p.m. to close.
Here’s the full schedule of films, which you can also find on the Facebook page:
APRIL 20: The Big Lebowski
APRIL 27: Strange Brew
MAY 4: Wedding Crashers
MAY 11: Back to the Future
MAY 18: Anchorman
MAY 25: Fight Club
JUNE 1: Bottle Rocket
JUNE 8: The Shawshank Redemption
JUNE 15: King Pin
JUNE 22: Goodfellas
JUNE 29: Best In Show
JULY 6: Boondock Saints
JULY 13: Ghost Busters
JULY 20: The Great Outdoors
JULY 27: Old School
AUGUST 3: Ferris Bueller’s Day Of
Italy is known for wine and food, but it’s home to hundreds of small breweries, including some innovative microbreweries making beer available here in the United States. Missoula’s own BeerTrips.com, the foremost beer travel outfitter, has a trip on the books for September 15 – 25.
The tour is slated to visited places like Cinque Terre, Genoa, Vernante, Alba and Torino, with beer dinners, tours of famous sites, cheese-making demonstrations and many other activities.
Read all about the Italy tour schedule and many other European beer tours available throughout the summer and fall at www.beertrips.com.
There has been a lot of big media attention paid to craft beer today. But a WSJ interview with Boston Beer Company’s Jim Koch is pretty cool. Read the entire Wall Street Journal interview with Jim Koch here.
My favorite line from the article is:
Mr. Koch: “I believe that great beer needs to come from the heart of somebody who really loves it, and you can’t fake that. The big guys have been trying to find a Sam Adams clone since 1987, when we were just starting to get a bit of attention.”
But here’s a bit of Koch’s insight that makes him more than just a pioneer:
“The foundation of this industry is the passion, the energy, the creativity … the just stubborn refusal to compromise, that is a characteristic of craft brewers.”
And I couldn’t agree more. Very well said Mr. Koch.
It all adds up to perfection.
Start off with a Friday that kind of unravels itself like a tightly wound ball of yarn. You move through the day like a zombie, trying to accomplish this task and that. But the hours are running down, and eventually you realize there is only so much a normal human being can accomplish in a set amount of time. Then you let out a big sigh, and you walk out the door at 5:15 p.m. ready to play as hard as you can while there’s daylight or even if there is not.
The Blue Canyon/Kettlehouse Beer Dinner might just be the best soul food one can get here in Missoula, Montana. Take great craft beer and add amazing food cooked exactingly to match each beer and add great company and you get an ingredient of perfection.
BC chef Laurence Coffman pulled out all the stops in a tour de force of matching beer and food. As is his style, we met a month ago to plan the menu and taste the beers. Larry would dart away after each beer to contemplate its perfect food match in the kitchen.
And as he does, Larry added little flourishes and his own artistic touch to each dish that made the final list.
It started with lively conversation, which is essential for a good beer dinner experience. One needs to have a good vocabulary and be at ease with describing tastes, textures and the appearance of dishes.b
Paired with Kettehouse Brewing Company’s new Seeley Axe, a Belgian-style low-gluten beer, the first course of a pink peppercorn brined prawn in a black berry sweet chili butter and served with a crispy potato gaufrette was superb. The hint of spice in the sweet chili butter and the pink peppercorns was slightly highlighted by the touch of heat coming off the Seeley Axe, while the prominent orange peel flavors from the beer brought out the sweetness of the blackberry sauce.
Take black garlic butter-fried chorizo and make perogi ala the West Side Market in Cleveland and add some shaved Manchego Cheese and a root beer gastrique, and you’ll have one of the most phenomenal food pairings with the much loved Cold Smoke Ale. A fairly prominent spiciness emanating from the chorizo is cut slightly by the sweet malts in Cold Smoke, while smooth creaminess of the beer acts as a beautiful setting for the crisp perogi dough, the full-flavored Manchego and the tangy root beer gastrique. This was one of the more popular pairings of the night.
After two relatively heavy taste experiences interwoven with wonderful conversation about beer and how it is made, we cleansed our palates with a basil sorbet-filled lime.
My two favorite dishes came next. The pretzel crusted Clear water Springs rainbow trout with a wholegrain mustard caper emulsion begs for a light-bodied, crisp and hoppy pale ale. The perfect match seems to be Eddie Out Pale Ale, which not only has the attributes needed to sustain this dish, but the malt and hop balance in this lighter pale forms a perfect companion for the creamy fish with a slightly salty mustard-pretzel combination. Delightful indeed!
And can there be anything better than meet cooked Sous Vide? Take smoked bison tenderloin and cook it to a pink perfection Sous Vide, then slightly sear it and add sun-dried tomato and goat-cheese polenta with balsamic-glazed pearl onions and wild mushrooms, and there is so much going on you almost have to stop to listen to your palate cry out for mercy. Larry paired this dish with Kettlehouse’s Double Haul India Pale Ale, which wasn’t my favorite for this meaty dish, but matching isn’t an exact science, so you try to get as close as you possibly can.
Many chefs take the final course and plop a bit of ice cream in a barrel-aged stout and call it good for dessert. Not Larry. His pastry chef concocted a delightful tropical playground on which to enjoy the Kettlehouse’s new standard of excellence, Brick & Mortar Imperial Porter. The dark, sweet plum and hints of coconut and chocolate on this beer make it perfectly suited to the exotic taste of tropical fruit, which was layered inside a beautiful crepe with an edible orchid. This was incredible, as desserts go.
Most of the 30+ attendees stayed around to chat after the dinner, sort of marinating in the conversation as food does. The richness and complexity in life can be enjoyed to in fine detail when one sits back and let’s the words flow over the smells and tastes still linger.
And this weekend did as most weekends do, it flew by. But on Sunday evening, the wife and I were able to visit with a wonderful friend we’ve known since 1st grade, which we all attended together at Cloverdale Elementary School in Oregon.
The Iron Horse has the 406 Series from Big Sky, so we all sat in the amazing sunshine and sipped on light and refreshing Saisons and caught up on a few missed years. The weekend ended with a long walk down to Big Dipper and some ice cream to cool things down a bit.
All in all, perfection. Wouldn’t change a thing, unless it was to make three-day-weekends mandatory.
Looking for a short road trip or a good weekend getaway? Look no further. Here’s what’s Big Sky Brewing Company has going on:
Congratulations to Brandi Brenden for winning a seat at the Blue Canyon/Kettlehouse Beer Dinner tonight. She became a fan of GrizzlyGrowler on Facebook and will enjoy an amazing spread put on by Blue Canyon’s own Larry Coffman and the Kettlehouse Brewing Company.
Thanks to all the other fans for participating, and check back often, we’ll be giving away other cool prizes for new fans and our long time fans as well.
See you all at the Blue Canyon/Kettlehouse Beer Dinner tonight.