This blog is more than just about beer, so from time to time we’ll highlight other beverages.
Whether you’re a novice or a brandy connoisseur, you should consider heading over to Bowman Orchards Distillery in Moses Lake, Wash., on Dec. 11-12. A seminar, Making Fine Brandy, will delve into the spirit’s history and distilling. It’s not cheap at $387, but could be worth checking out, and space is limited. Here’s the info:
Artisan Craft Distilling Seminar
11 – 12 December 2010
MAKING FINE BRANDY, a weekend seminar, will explore the history of brandy-making from a world-wide perspective, and will examine its current place
in the fine spirits market. As a highlight, the subject matter will deal the traditional techniques used to craft these fruit-based spirits, and it will culminate in an actual demonstration of brandy distillation at a commercial distillery.
Presented by master distiller Berle W. Figgins, Jr., a commercial brandy producer, MAKING FINE BRANDY will educate those interested in the fascinating world of brandy – from Cognac to Armagnac to Calvados to Pisco, and beyond. A comprehensive brandy tasting will be conducted as part of the class. This sensory evaluation of world brandies, complete with high quality stemware and scoring cards, will help to educate the palate of both beginners and connoisseurs of fine brandy.
MAKING FINE BRANDY is essential learning for the aspiring, apprentice or master distiller, and even for the celebrity bartender wishing to know more about
the production aspect of world brandies.
Space is limited, so register today to ensure your place among the many distilled spirits professionals and industry leaders in attendance! Call 509-793-2061 to register. Visit us at www.artisancraftdistilling.spruz.com for more information or call 509-793-2374.
- Matt Pritchard
I love a good Bloody Mary once-in-a-while, and I’ve even thrown an ounce or two of liquor in any number of cold soups, but this article from the Wall Street Journal brings whole new meaning to the term drinking your dinner.
Seems I’m a little late to this game, but another craft distillery has opened in Montana. Flathead Distillers, owned and operated by Dave and Nancy Lehenky of Eureka, produces small-batch vodka made from sugar beets. Dave Lehenky said he wanted to use beets, because they are grown locally, and because many people have allergies to grains.
The Vodka has been on the shelf in Eureka and Whitefish since mid-December, and I’m waiting to find out if the vodka will be available at Griz Liquor soon. For now, you can try the vodka at The Great Northern Bar and the Whitefish Golf Club Restaurant, according to Nancy Lehenky.
For my part, I’m very glad to see more micro distilleries taking advantage of the fact that Montana is one of the easier places to open up this kind of business. And local products are great for the economy, especially when everything is owned by a conglomerate or made in China these days.
Here’s a great article from the Billings Gazette on the new micro distilleries opening up around the state. Look for one in your neck of the woods.
You may or may not notice the unique bottle as you peruse the whiskeys these days, but if you do, it likely caught your eye for the way the light played through the orange-brown liquor on the flask-shaped, old-fashioned bottle.
I remember when Bulleit Bourbon came out a few years back. It appealed to many of my Portland, Oregon friends for the pricing of the bourbon, which at the time was like $16.00 a fifth. We enjoyed it neat or mixed it with coke, but it was nothing pretentious or overly fancy.
Skip forward a few more years, and I’m living in Missoula, Montana. Bourbon is the drink of choice. Whether you’re camping or sitting around a summer fire after floating the Blackfoot River, everyone seems to have a flask of bourbon on hand.
Of all the varieties of bourbon, I enjoy the stronger, darker bourbons for the bite they have on them. Lighter bourbons often make good mixers. Bulleit falls somewhere in between. But the high rye content, something like 31 percent, gives it a much more bold taste than bourbons made with a higher wheat content. I find that Bulleit has a really nice spicy nose with honey and vanilla. But the flavor is more earthy than a Maker’s Mark on the palate.
Bulleit bourbon is a little more pricey than in my Oregon days, but it’s still a great deal and less than a bottle of Maker’s Mark. It’s available in the standard fifth and a 1.75 liter big bottle, at least here in Montana.
Because of its relative strength, Bulleit makes for a great holiday bourbon. It can be mixed in with egg nog, hot chocolate or cider to provide a festive drink, and you won’t lose that wonderful bourbon taste.
Give Bulleit a try for a little holiday sipper. It’s available at Griz Liquor and other fine establishments.
Montana definitely is a whiskey state. You have your Scotch clubs and your rye lovers. You’ve got small-batch distilleries opening up left and right, and you have a cowboy and adventurer spirit that goes back generations. And as much as we like beer and don’t mind humping new, light-weight cans into the Bob Marshall, a flask of whiskey is a much easier traveling companion on those long hikes.
While some of you pack along really expensive Scotch whiskeys for that 10-day survival trip, I’ve been looking for the best-camp-whiskey-for-your-buck that I can find.
And I think I found it. A bottle of W.L. Weller Special Reserve goes for $18 at Griz Liquor, and if you think that’s a bargain, the price recently jumped from $15. Apparently people are on to the fact that this is a really decent bourbon for the price.
Here’s a breakdown for those of you who follow bourbon tasting etiquette:
Color: light brown in comparison with bolder bourbons, clears at the edges.
Nose: Pleasant, medium, slightly floral with a hint of sweet
Flavor: Nutty with some caramel, hint of pine, but not medicinal.
Overall: Great bourbon for the price. Makes a perfect bourbon and Coke, while still able to stand alone as a nice camp sipper after a long hike. Won’t burn you out either, which is nice when you might be slightly dehydrated.
Vodka is close to my heart. Not only is it the native drink of my homeland, Ukraine, it is a spirit which defines sophistication and delicacy. There is nothing better than good vodka and caviar.
I have had the opportunity to try good vodka both here in the United States and in the former Soviet Union. With the vodka popularity boom in the late 90s, many boutique distilleries opened around the world. Unfortunately, many distilleries opened with the goal of producing fine whiskey and other drinks. They pushed cheaper vodkas and gins out the door to keep customers happy while the real stuff aged in barrels.
A few produce good, drinkable vodka. A fewer still produced world-class boutique vodkas with interesting themes and fun packaging.
There are few rules to good vodka, it should be clear, creamy, smooth and non-funky-smelling.
I was shocked when I first moved to Montana and found that distilling laws were much more lax than those concerning brewing companies. That’s when I first heard of Vigilante Distilling. This Helena-based company, the owners of which were principally responsible for the bill that made distilling so much easier in Montana, is just getting started, but they’re off in a good direction with their first product.
I haven’t met them yet, but I’ve tried their vodka after getting a tip that it’s available at Grizzly Liquor.
Vigilante is good vodka if you’re in the mood for local vodka that can hold its own at a cold temperature. When it warms up, it develops a decidedly medicinal quality that isn’t altogether unpleasant, but it is noticeable.
What I noticed right off the bat is a sweet, smooth and clean taste to the back of the mouth. There is nothing harsh or abrasive on this vodka, but there is a slight herbal nose on it.
Like most vodkas, this on goes well with food. It’s not just the fact that it’s clear and clean, it actually brings out sharp flavors quite well. I tried some crackers with plum tomatoes, goat cheese and anchovies.
The labeling is fun and you definitely know you’re drinking something made in Montana. And the story on the back explaining the vigilante heritage is a nice addition to the overall package.
All in all, this vodka was good considering it’s made with sugercane products. My only complaint comes on the nose, where I’d like to find a little more grain. This is Montana after all. We have enough grain to go around. I’ve always thought this state could produce world-class vodkas, as it shares much in common with the vodka countries of Poland, Russia and Ukraine.
While craft brew is and always will be my passion, I have at times explored other interesting beverages. I’ve never been secretive about my love of good wine and growing up in Oregon’s wine country, and don’t even get me started on Scotch.
And, after having visited more than 50 countries, I’ve been able to try almost every conceivable type of fermented beverage. In many places, such drinks are the elixir of life, often the center piece of a social gathering. Along with tea and coffee, fermented beverages seem to loosen the wheels of conversation and enliven interactions among people.
Now we’ve got a great wine blog, Know Your Vino, which I won’t even pretend to emulate, but I do want to include a few more interesting posts about such things as the Scotch Society here in Missoula, the growing distillery industry in the Northwest and whatever other interesting fermented beverages I happen to find out there.
So, all this to say, don’t be alarmed if you see a post about some new Scotch or other spirit. It’s all in the grand scheme of the Grizzly Growler, which is to facilitate conversation over a good drink.
Oh, and what do you think about the new look of the Growler?
Weekends are for good strenuous work, be it hiking or mowing the lawn. Good strenuous work calls for good refreshment.
Contrary to popular belief, I’m not all beer all the time. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to enjoy many other adult beverages in season. What do I mean by in season? Well, drinks, like foods, are seasonal. And just like tires, some drinks are all season.
Beer definitely fits into the all-season category as do martinis. The seasonality of drinks can be broken down to hours of the day as well. There are drinks that are acceptable for the three-cocktail working lunch, and then there is happy hour. Beer is acceptable in between just as it is during happy hour, but a three-beer lunch is frowned upon. Why? Because three beers would leave you nearly comatose in the heat of the afternoon. Because of their filling nature, three beers would have more affect on you in the drowsy hours than three cocktails.
Weekends are another way to break down the consumation of adult beverages.
While Friday nights might start with a cocktail hour, beer is a popular choice as the evening progresses, though wine might find its way into your glass if you’re out checking out art galleries or something similar.
The problem is that you don’t want to start with beer, switch to liquor or wine and then finish with beer unless you have the stomach of a god. And, for the record, I don’t recommend consuming beverages in that style anyway. It’s called binge drinking, and it ain’t good.
However, if you are going to drink alcoholic beverages during the weekend, there are a few things you might want to consider. A beer at happy hour will produce less of a buzz and a fuller feeling taking you into dinner time less than famished. A glass of wine with dinner is perfectly acceptable, though we all know beer is as good with food as wine and drinking a glass of water in between will help you maintain a balance in your system.
If you are moving about from place to place, cocktails to end the evening are a fine choice as well, and if you’ve consumed in moderation, you should be in feeling no ill effects from mixing beverages, contrary to the popular slogan: that beer before liquor, never sicker.
Imbibing is all about your system and what it can handle. If you really enjoy adult beverages, drinking fewer, finer styles will leave you with a quality experience, where as drinking a bunch of a cheaper drink or drinks will leave you needing some hair of the dog on Saturday morning.
Speaking of which, Saturday mornings are a perfectly acceptable time to drink mimosas, a Bloody Mary or even a beer. That’s right, breakfast beer is a great idea for a brunch treat. Try a full-flavored Belgian beer with breakfast sausages, crepes, eggs-any-style or even pancakes.
A cold, light beer is as refreshing as a martini after a hard day of mowing lawns, and if you’re going to wine club on Saturday nights, try not to drink anything really hoppy or strong before hand. You’ll blow your palate out before it can even get started.
Drinking rules are not hard and fast. But, if you enjoy a good beverage, and if it improves conversation and adds to your basic experience, then enjoy in moderation.
Because we all know what it means when someone says, “Dude, I can’t drink tequila any more.”
Montana is a craft-drinking mecca, of that you can be sure. However, you can remove craft from that statement, and it would be equally true. Turns out that if you take all types of alcohol into consideration, the average Montana puts down 34 gallons of the stuff in a 2007 Times CNN survey. Just beer? Well, the average Montanan puts away 30 gallons of that every year. Both of those numbers are good enough to rank the state number 4 out of 51 states if you include the District of Columbia.
What’s that mean? Well, For our population size, Montana puts away a lot of beer, wine and liquor. But, apparently New Hampshire can clean our clock in the drinking department, the average Granite Stater puts away 40 gallons of alcohol every year.
Last on the list, and not surprisingly, is dear old Utah at about 14 gallons consumed annually per person. or at least the 40 percent of the state not part of the Mormon Church. But all this could change soon, as Utah’s legislature votes on whether to allow bars to open to the public without the club system in operation for the last 40 years. Also, on the chopping block according to a recent AP article, the so-called “Zion Curtain,” where a bartender must walk around a partition to hand an alcoholic drink directly to a customer.
Admittedly, Utah’s liquor laws make Montana’s look downright liberal, but Utah is doing it for a better reason than Montana is. Utah wants to improve on it’s already $6 billion-a-year tourism industry, and industry insiders and lawmakers know that to see change, they need to free up the bars.
Montana could follow this example and become a real tourism state instead of putting everything into the Superfund cleanup economy basket. Loosen the restrictions on breweries, and tourism dollars will flow all the way back to Helena and beyond. Shoot, Utah figured that out, and they were 51 our of 51.