Story by Matt Young. Photo by Felix.
Cary, NC – To those of you who followed the Panthers Beat this year, thanks. They had a heck of a year.
If you are a football fan, you know that last week was one of the best weekends for NFL football all year – the NFC and AFC Championships.
I can’t think of many things better than being parked on my couch on Sundays in the fall. Unless it’s with a good beer.
So I got to thinking. There are four pretty darn good breweries in those towns. Baltimore, San Francisco, New York, and Boston.
Why not write about those great cities’ great beers?
Playoff Inspired Beers
We’ll start with the AFC and NFC teams that lost. The Ravens and the Niners.
Baltimore. Home of Clipper City Brewery. Makers of Peg Leg Imperial Stout. First, if you don’t mind, always drink a stout in a glass. An oversized wine glass works great.
Here’s what you get with this beer: it looks like coffee, it even has a bit of a coffee aroma. And the intense taste of malt. And chocolate. It sports an average size head that dissipates pretty quickly. As Clipper City says: it’s “focused on the malt rather than the hops”. And it’s darn good. Peg Leg is 8% alcohol by volume. That’s twice as powerful as that “Natty Light” in your hand.
By the way, dark beers like stout are dark because the barley used in the grist is “kilned” at higher temperatures that your average brew. Often this barley is referred to as “chocolate malt” or “black malt”. Stouts originated in England, as did many styles.
San Francisco. Genuflect. The original craft beer. The venerable Anchor Steam. And Fritz Maytag, the founder, is one of the most fascinating businessmen ever. ‘Ever hear of Maytag Blue Cheese? That’s Fritz’ brainchild too. He bought the failing brewery in the mid ’60’s, kept it small, and is credited as the “father of microbreweries”.
Anchor Steam is in a beer style known as a “California Common”. It is made with a California-grown proprietary yeast. It has a great head. It’s naturally carbonated, meaning it does not have CO2 forced through it but is carbonated by active yeast cultures in the bottle. Cool.
The flavor, ironically enough, is bready and tangy, like sour dough. Anchor Steam is a rich dark amber color. It’s a great first craft beer for the beer novice to try. Afterall it is where all the fun began in this country.
It has character, but is not scary to Budheads at all. And it is a tame 4.9% alcohol by volume.
Super Bowl Beers
The Patriots versus the Giants in the Super Bowl.
I chose Harpoon IPA from Harpoon Brewery (self-proclaimed as “New England’s Craft Brewery”) to rep New England. I chose Brooklyn Lager from Brooklyn Brewery as the New York representative.
New England. One of my favorites – Harpoon IPA – is on the low side of hoppiness for an IPA – or “India Pale Ale”. IPA’s are named as such because the beers that were sent from England to India in the 1800’s for the colonists’ use were jam packed with hops. India Pale Ales, as a result, are bitter. The liberal hops usage was to counteract the dilemma of the lack of available refrigeration and take advantage of the preservative qualities of hops. In this case the hops make Harpoon piney, citrus-y and floral (Cascade hops, if you care). It is 5.9% alcohol by volume.
And delicious. I am not lying. Of course, I am an admitted hophead, I even grow hops in my back yard.
New York. A great brewery is New York Brooklyn Brewery. I mean…”fugettaboudit”! Brooklyn also makes a terrific (relatively low-hopped) IPA.
But in this case I chose Brooklyn Lager.
Lager beer is fermented at lower temperatures with a special yeast that gives it its crisp character.
Brooklyn Lager has more character than many lagers. It is almost ale-y – not “thin” like that Miller Beer that you love (and I do too!). Brooklyn Lager is 5.2% ABV.
Valentine’s Day is the Week After
For you guys or gals that have been watching football every weekend for the past 20 weeks that want to do something special for your other half…the week after Super Bowl Sunday is Valentine’s Day. Here’s a couple quick tips on pairing chocolate and wine.
Porto Rocha is a reasonably priced Port that goes great with milk or dark chocolate. It brings a burst of cherry flavor on your tongue and is mildly sweet. The Porto Rocha Company is 150 years old and grows its grapes from 100-year-old vines.
Port gets its name from Porto, a seaside port city in Portugal in the 1600’s from which Port was exported. By the way, I just used “port” 6 times in one sentence. Port is “fortified wine” – meaning distilled beverages are added to boost its flavor and potency. In this case aguardente (distilled wine or “grape brandy) has been added. The fermentation (yeast conversion of sugar to alcohol) is also stopped earlier in the process than it is in wines, which gives it the sweet Port character. Give it a try. It comes in a great stencil-lettered bottle too.
If you are into white chocolate, give Alma Negra Sparkling Chardonnay a try. Heck, it would go great with milk chocolate and strawberries too. The general rule of thumb is – the darker the chocolate, the more full-bodied the wine that it should be paired with. But rules of thumb were made to be broken. So experiment! If you are going the white chocolate route, sherry is also a traditional choice.