The Best of the Wurst!

27 09 2010
Bavarian Weißwurst

Photo Credti: *Noema* CC

It’s that time again! That time of year that rings in the hearts of all beer drinkers everywhere. Oktoberfest! Not only that, but it is the 200th celebration of the first Oktoberfest. Originally it was a celebration of the Prince of Baveria’s wedding, it soon became a celebration of the harvest and the beginning of the brewing season. Now it is just a celebration of all things beer. And unlike St. Patrick’s Day or Cinco de Mayo, it is a holiday actually celbrated by Germans.

We have covered Oktoberfest beers in our section on European Amber Lagers. So today, we will focus on that other staple of Oktoberfest, the sausages. Now sausages are just a small part of the Oktoberfest food. Visitors also eat chicken, ham, noodles, preztels and fish on a stick (because what is a fair without something on a stick?). But sausages are probably the most popular German food in the United States. There are alot of differnt types of sausages. And each comes from a different region with different variations. So let’s break it down for you so that you don’t look like “Eine komplette Idot”

There are two main types of sausages: fresh (served hot) and spreadable (served cold and spread on bread).

The fresh, hot sausage is what you will probably see most at and Oktoberfest celebration.

You are probably familiar with Bratwurst already. You see those at baseball games and at cook outs. It is a pale sausage made priamarily with veal and pork. It is spiced with nutmeg and other spices.

And you may be familiar with frankfurter. Although what Americans consider “frankfurter” is more like Weinerwurst. Frankfurter is made out pork and bacon fat and then smoked. Weinerfurter is more like American hot dogs. It is made out of pork and beef and then covered with garlic.

However, at the real deal, you will most likely see Weisswurst. Weisswurst is German for “White sausage” and is, as the name suggests, very pale. It is made from veal, cream and eggs. And is very delicately flavored. Traditionally, it is served with rye bread, saurkraut (pickled cabbage) and beer.

At your American celebrations, you may also see  Knockwurst. Knockwurst is a short, plump sausage made from veal and corriander and is often grilled.

There are loads of other sausages you probably won’t see very often at your Oktoberfest celebrations. But they include:

  • Bierschinken—with chunks of ham and pistachios
  • Bierwurst—coarse-textured sausage flavored with juniper berries
  • Blutwurst—”blood sausage” fried like English black pudding

As for the spreadable sausages, you probably are not going to find a whole lot of those at your Oktoberfest, unless your host is very adventurous. Americans generally don’t care for their sausages in a spreadable form.

Liverwurst is the most well known of the spreadable kinds. All liverwurst must have at least 30% liver in them. And there are many varieties depending on region. Although the most popular kind is Braunschweiger which is made with milk and eggs.

Cervelat similar to Italian salami, a slicing sausage of pork and beef with spices and often mustard or garlic. It is most often eaten on pieces of dark rye bread.

There you have it! You can now identify your sausages and party with the “wurst” of them! Prost!


First Sign That Beer is Getting Trendy?

22 07 2010

The New York Times’ Wednesday food section came out yesterday with not one, not two but THREE separate mentions of beer. My mind was blown.

Occasionally, the Times has given us beer drinkers a bone by mentioning beer. There was that article about Belgian beer. Then there was that article about sour beers. And then there was that article about why Growlers are cool again.

But this week, there were three totally separate articles about beer.

1. There is apparently a beer tasting happening this week in SoHo. (Or TriBeCa?) Tickets cost $40. So, if you are in SoHo and have $40 to spend on a tasting, there is one somewhere.

2. Building a Better Beer Can Chicken. Correspondent Melissa Clark apparently hasn’t had much success in the past making a beer can chicken. It involves placing a can of beer inside of a whole chicken and then cooking it with indirect heat. Her complaints were that the outside cooks too quickly and the inside cooks too slowly. The solution: more consistent heat and give your chicken a good slathering of spiced mayo. The pictures look pretty good.

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

3. Did you know that you can cook with beer? Yes you can! (Long time readers know this to be true). The author, John Willoughby, begins the article by admitting he would rather drink a pilsner than a stout. But using stout in food can help emphasize earthy, roasty or smoky flavors. (It is not often that we let our snark flag fly high, but in this case we are going to let it fly wildly in the wind.) < snark>It is precisely this “forward thinking revolutionary idea” or cooking mushrooms in stout that makes the NY Times the paragon of trend setting of our time!</ snark> In all seriousness though, it is a good idea to cook mushrooms in stout. And their lamb chops in a stout-citrus glaze look pretty amazing. One thing they neglected to mention in the article was that when cooking with beer, a little can go a long way. Cooking beer tends to accentuate the hop bitterness. Adding a little bit of beer toward the end of the cooking process can caramelize the sugars without increasing bitterness.

Sabra Krock for The New York Times

Keep up the good work New York Times! It is stories like these that help you seem current in these times of new trends. We hope to see more cooking with beer as well as some beer and food pairings. Maybe there will be less emphasis on wine and more on beer in the future. At least we can dream.

‘Tis The Season: Pale Ales and India Pale Ales

8 07 2010

There is no denying it: summer is here in the Northern Hemisphere. The days are long and hot. And the nights are short and warm. It is the ideal weather for picnics, cook outs, sitting on a porch or cafe patio and for drinking beer. Every one has their favorite beer styles for the summer. But for me, in early summer, I love pale ales and IPAs. We have already gone over the history of pale ales (both English and American) and IPAs before so we won’t go into that deep of details here. But here are three reasons why I think they can be perfect for a long, hot summer day.

Photo Credit: sashafatcat CC

1. Hops, Hops, Hops-

Since I grew up in California, it should come to no great surprise that I am a bit of a hop head. While I am less and less impressed by those monotonous hop bombs, I do love a good slap you in the face IPA. Lately, however, I have become much more impressed with a very interesting and complex IPA that has citrus, pineapple, cedar, pine, moss, spruce and other aromatics. A good, crisp pale ale with strong bubbles and a complex hop profile can be so incredibly refreshing on a hot day. And the maltiness of a well balanced pale ale can be so very satisfying.

2. Sessionable. Or not…-

American Pale Ales and IPAs tend to lean toward the low end of alcohol. Ranging from 4-8% ABV, you can have have a few and maybe a few more and still feel alright the next morning. We always advocate responsible drinking at The Thinking Persons Beer and we believe pale ales and IPAs are perfect for sense-able drinking. One can drink a few until the palate is tired and then be done. Or, if you feel so inclined, you can have some Double IPAs or Imperial IPAs. At 10-12% ABV, you can feel the buzz pretty quickly and enjoy the rest of the night that way.

3. Food Parings

Photo Credt: Sonnett CC

With the scrubbing bubbles and spicy, citrusy hops, pale ales and IPAs are nearly perfect for pairing with picnic and cook out foods. Spicy hops help balance the spice of BBQ sauce or chips and salsa. The scrubbing bubbles help cleanse the pallet from fats like potato salad, juicy hamburgers or fried chicken. Maybe you are wanting to sit on the patio of a cafe, pale ales go very well with fresh salads dressed in vinaigrette and fresh goat cheese. A grilled veggie sandwich on freshly baked sourdough toast would be perfect with a good pale ale as well. And while it may sound crazy, a bold Double IPA is a better partner for a slice of New York cheese cake as the citrus matches the vanilla of the cheese and the crispness cleanses the palate of the fattiness of the cheese.

This weekend, we will be sharing some of the best pale ales and IPAs of the year along with food parings for the summer. Which is your favorite IPA?

Picnic and BBQ Beer Stuff

24 04 2010

Summer is quickly approaching here in the Northern Hemisphere. And in the United States, the unofficial beginning of summer (Memorial Day) is just a month away. And with that, it means the return of drinking outside is here! Whether at a picnic in the park or in the back yard, there are a lot of ways to enjoy your beer outside. Here are some gadgets and tricks to help make your outside drinking a little bit better.

Of course when you are drinking a serious beer, you are drinking from serious glassware. But sometimes, you are not drinking serious beer. And what you are looking for is ease and convenience. That is usually when you bring out the red Dixie cups. But they are so bad for the environment! That is why you need the sturdy, reusable, melamine “kegger” cups from One Hundred 80 Degress. $14 for a set of 4.

But if you want your plasticwear to be a bit more “high class”, Crate and Barrel have some pretty nice wine glasses made of acrylic. So you can throw them in your picnic basket or cooler and not worry about them shattering.

But where to put your drink while eating? Balancing a beer in your lap can be a death defying act. And putting in the lawn leaves your beer open to contamination or tippage at the first strong breeze. The Steady Stick has you covered. Able to hold a class of wine, cocktail glass, or bottles and cups, the Steady Stick gets pushed into the grass or sand to help give you a hand with your drink.

Carrying a cooler around can be such a burden. And those hard sides can make it difficult to pack. But this Rolling Can Cooler can carry a couple of six packs, ice packs, and be still have room for lunch. It’s soft sides make it easier to pack up. And it has wheels and a collapsible “luggage-style” handle. All this for less than $40!

Let’s say you are one of those lucky jerks who lives in California, where it is beautiful all the time. And it rains less than a month out of the year. And you live by your grill. Well, you should have an outdoor kegerator! For less than a thousand dollars, you can have your own tap beer prepared to your exact specifications just a mere few feet from your grilling spot. Have a couple thousand to drop? This deluxe model holds a keg and several dozen bottles and cans and has place for ice and cups!

Oh no! Lets say your friend has just shown up to your BBQ with an awesome bottle of beer that you have just been dying to try! But it is warm! You just don’t have the time to wait to cool this puppy down to the right temperature. Have no fear! Science is here! First grab a big stock pot. Fill it about half way with ice and add a cup of salt. Any salt will do. What this does is lower the freezing point of the ice to below 32 degrees (0 Celsius). Then fill with water. What you have there is a flash freezing tank. Your water will rapidly drop to around freezing. After submerging the beer bottles or cans into the freezing cold water, it will be completely surrounded by cold, allowing for a quick and even chill. Just submerging in ice will allow for pockets of warm air to surround your beer, thus lengthening the chill time.

Let’s face it, there are times when bringing a beer is illegal. Municipal parks and some venues don’t allow alcoholic drinks or glass bottles. Its a crying shame. You didn’t here it from me, but there is a way around it. If you are crafty enough.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

14 03 2010

Wednesday is the Feast Day of St. Patrick, one of the Patron Saints of Ireland in the Roman Catholic Church. Having been to Dublin on St. Patrick’s day, I can say that Americans celebrate it very different from the Irish do. St. Patrick’s day is a religious holiday mixed with national and cultural pride. It is very much like Thanksgiving in the United States. Due to that fact, many Irish celebrate it by going to church and praying and being with family and friends rather than going out and drinking green beer and making fools of themselves. It was amazing to be in Dublin for St. Patrick’s and finding the usually convivial and congenial Irish suddenly angry and resentful of my presence. I guess I would too if every year thousands of foreigners descended upon my city for Thanksgiving for the sheer purpose of getting sloppy drunk.

If anything, I believe American’s attitude toward St. Patrick’s Day is evidence of our ability to first villianize and oppress another culture and then “celebrate” our ignorant stereotypes and prejudices with a bastardized version of their holidays.

But St. Patrick’s day is a big beer drinking day in the United States. And this a beer blog written in the United States. So I would be remiss not to mention it. But as we here at The Thinking Person’s Beer attempt to improve and enhance the rhetoric around beer drinking, we are going instead focus on cooking and pairing food with Irish beer.

Photo Credit: Wickenden CC

Corned beef is a staple at many St. Patrick’s Day dinners. The dish begins with a beef brisket which then brined in salt and then boiled or broiled. It becomes tender, juicy and salty. It is served with baked fingerling potatoes, carrots, onions and cabbage. I would like to pair my corned beef with Harp Lager from The Great Northern Brewery. Light, crisp and slightly spicy hops and generous carbonation, harp will scrub your palate clean between bites, setting you up for another. I could also pair corned beef with O’Hara’s irish Red. The malt of O’Hara’s Red has a slightly salty sweetness reminiscent of a seabreeze. This would pair wonderfully as it would play off of the salt in the beef.

Photo Credit: Sarah McD CC

Another great Irish dish is Beef and Guinness Pie. More like a stew than a pie, the beef is slowly cooked with carrots, potatoes and onions in Guinness stout and then served in a Yorkshire pudding. This is wonderful on a cool, drizzly spring evening. Instead of Guinness Draught, I would use the Extra Stout. The Extra Stout has more malt sugar to caramelize. It also has a smokier roast which would give your stew a deeper, warmer, earthier quality. Serve with a pint of Guinness Extra Stout–slightly chilled.

Fish and Chips are a staple in Ireland. It was often the go-to dinner when I lived there. Begin with a light, white fish like cod, halibut or tilapia. I would recommend making a beer batter with Smithwicks Ale. The malt is sweeter and will caramelize nicely to play off the lightness of the fish. It will also be accentuated by the malt vinegar. Save yourself the time and get frozen fries instead of making your own. And forget the tarter sauce. Serve with a pint of Smithwicks.

Photo Credit: @joefoodie CC

For dessert, try a stout float. Avoid the obvious and stay away from Guinness Draught which is too dry and smokey in my opinion. Instead, try Murphy’s Irish Stout which is creamier and more chocolaty. Pour about 3/4 of a pint and then add a generous scoop of French Vanilla Ice Cream and enjoy!

That should do it. English and Irish food both have a reputation for being bland. But by focusing on fresh ingredients and pairing well with a good beer, your food can be flavorful and delicious.

The Thinking Person’s Beer wishes you a very happy and safe holiday and Slainte!