Imperial Barley Wine + Stilton

Our Imperial Barley Wine does not play around. This fella comes in at an impressive 11% ABV (watch yaself!), with very bold malt flavors. It deserves to be paired with someone that can keep up. Someone strong and unique.

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Stilton is a lovely blue cheese that hails from Britain. It is a “Protected Designation of Origin” cheese, meaning for Stilton in particular it can only be made in 3 counties in Britain to be a true Stilton. This is a cheese that despite having a very piquant flavor is quite easy to eat; very addicting. It has a very nice moist, crumbly texture and fine blue veins run throughout. Worthy of its title “King of Cheeses”.

Barley Wine is a more challenging beer to produce, requiring more time in the brewing process and more expertise from the brewer. Some barley wines are aged for a long time (1 year or more) and are said to become better with age. Although not always reaching alcohol content of wines, one can’t help but be reminded of wine by the strength of barley wine’s alcohol content compared to other beers. Our Imperial Barely Wine impresses with lavish flavors of malt and molasses as subtle sherry, anise flavors emerge. The light carbonation is crisp and just right for its full body.

I put my Stilton on wafer crackers as a neutral vessel of its flavor. This combination was so intense and heavenly I have to wonder if Stilton was made just for Barley Wine. Like other blue cheeses the Stilton was primarily salty, but I was also pleased tasting the delicate sweetness. My favorite part about this pairing was that as each flavor component was revealed I kept wanting more and more. This was quite an interesting marriage of complex flavors. The type you experience slowly, with your eyes closed. There is nothing casual about these two; together they make an indulgent treat. Who could be better for the King of Cheeses than the strongest of Ales?

Barley Wine is often regarded as a beer who’s best alone, no decoration. I see the merit in that statement, as it has such a dominating presence. The forbidding nature of such a statement only makes this tried and true combo all the more intriguing.

Have you tried this pairing, or is there something else you like to pair with our Imperial Barley Wine? Is Barley Wine more of a stand alone type of guy to you?

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Hangover Preparedness

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Oh, hangovers. I know we’d like to say we are passed this point in our lives, but they can be sneaky buggers. If it was a planned night on the town for your life-long bestie’s birthday or if too much free beer landed you in your boyfriend’s great aunt’s bed puking on Christmas (Anyone? Just me?) you can be sure of one thing: hang. over. However you got to now, you need a remedy, STAT. Many times I’ve stumbled through this nauseating mess with no clear direction.

There are many great ways to prevent the familiar aftereffect of one too many, but right now, let’s talk treatment. The damage has been done.

Should you have a hangover kit? Probably. It’s easy to have a few things you may need in the morning conveniently placed near your bed or wherever’s clever. The world doesn’t stop for the hungover.

What I have in my hangover kit:

  • A water bottle for rehydration
  • Crystallized ginger for nausea (these work like magic for me, but there is also always an antacid)
  • A granola bar for strength
  • Advil for a headache and muscle aches

I’m pretty minimalist, so I think this is all that’s really necessary to get back up and at ‘em. But if need be you could add hair ties, chapstick, plastic bags (just in case), tissues, peppermints, or anything that’s presence would have you thanking the gods as you realize what suffering is coming to you.

Of course, its best to avoid hangovers altogether. Usually thats pretty easy to do. Occasionally libationary spontaneity strikes you with no intention of getting too tipsy. Be relieved to have a little recovery jump start all ready for you.

If having a low key hangover kit handy seems absurd to you, consider that all of these things could potentially be useful anytime an ailment strikes you in the morning; multi use! Be prepared, people, be prepared.

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Judging a Beer by Its Label

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Here’s something that’s never mentioned when talking about beer judging: bottle (or can) art. When we are at a brewery or anywhere ordering a beer, we are making that decision based off of possibly beer style, description, recommendation, or familiarity. In those moments, the artwork the brewery decided was just right to represent and market that particular beer is out of the picture.

And that’s totally okay. Nowhere in “aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, appearance, general impression” is label art relevant.

You may be attracted to a beer at the store at first because of it’s super unique, funny, or beautiful label and find it to be all you’d imagined it would be when it caught your gaze from behind the glass cooler doors. What a lovely aligning of the stars. You may also hate it. Better luck next time. The label says more about who the brewery is trying to connect themselves with than if you are going to love to drink their beer. If you gravitate toward their label, you are probably their target market. But what does that say about the quality of their beer?

Don’t get me wrong, if it seems like I’m taking the “don’t judge a book by its cover” angle you’re only half right. There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with things you find beautiful. There is a certain good way you feel when your purchases harmonize with the person you identify as, or hope to be.

Us reasonable beer drinkers know that a boring label may be housing a stellar brew, but label art is certainly an integral part of craft beer culture. Any brewery with mind-blowing beer and no label to match it is doing a disservice to themselves. Case in pint (pun intended), we consume with our eyes first.

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Do Kids and Beer Mix?

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Alright, so we love beer. But, if you’ve got them, where do your kids belong in this relationship with craft beer culture? Are you more like the dad who waits till the kids are asleep to crack one open, or are you the mom at the brewery with a beer in one hand and a babbling baby in the other?

There are so many lesson-worthy aspects to beer culture that your offspring will be better off for because it was shared with them (the facets, not the beer itself…. or maybe when they’re in high school). At the same time because of beer’s tie to alcohol, and thus alcoholism and the general stigma left from prohibition, don’t count on never getting that judgmental side eye from your grandma’s sister when you ask your 4 year old to bring you your IPA.

If you’re not so sure parents should be shameless in towing their little ones along with this passion, I’ll give you a couple reasons why beer is not an unfamiliar topic to my son.

Homebrewing is a bonding experience
Depending on how you angle it, involving your child with homebrewing is like cooking dinner, or a science experiment. Having them help with tasks and watching what you do is giving them the responsibility of being a part of what makes your home go round. It’s a productive way to spend time with each other and probably the coolest thing they’ll learn from you. Alternatively, if you are new to homebrewing you could emphasize the scientific aspect of beer brewing. Win-win science project anyone?

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I’m sure when you had kids you still wanted your lifestyle to remain relatively the same, right? Sure, there were some compromises and less of your own time, but to a problem-solver that just means you have to figure out a way to optimally incorporate the kids. Some breweries, especially ones run by folks with kids themselves, totally get it. They’re doing things like adding kid corners with toys and games, or just making sure they have child satisfying chocolate milk handy. Breweries offer a totally different atmosphere than bars. And your kids will see you supporting a smaller business and be a part of the community you build there. Just make sure they know how to act.

What isn’t taboo isn’t enticing
If your kids see your relationship to beer more about the culture than the alcohol, this should create a healthy association. Allow yourself to be an example of drinking responsibly.

Now, let me be clear. With all that said, your child has to clearly understand that while beer culture can be fun, the beverage is for adults. Generally at a young age this shouldn’t be too hard.

Do you involve your kids with beer culture? Any hesitations?

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A Celebration of Fermentation

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One of my favorite facets of beer is the fermentation process. Nothing harkens to the productivity and preparedness of humans like their ability to preserve fresh food for later. Fermentation is one of the many ways homesteaders of the past (and present, with the addition of the automobile and market as a back up) preserved summer and fall’s bounty for the long winter.

Unlike other methods of preservation, such as canning or drying, fermenting actually changes the original ingredients into something chemically different. So what’s going on during fermentation?

Fermentation is essentially the process of turning carbohydrates into alcohol, acid, or gas— the handiwork of various microorganisms, and in beer’s case, yeasts. When brewing beer, fermentation is a metabolic process in which the yeasts are consuming the sugars in the wort from the malt, turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide (hello, tiny bubbles!).

At what temperature and for how long the beer is stored depends on the type of beer being fermented. These types are most notably ales and lagers. The difference lies in the yeast.

Ale yeast strains are called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or top-fermenters, and they require warmer temperatures for shorter periods of time to ferment. These yeast strains make ales higher in esters. Saccharomyces uvarum are bottom fermenting yeast strains that make lagers. They ferment in lower temperatures and for a longer period of time. The colder fermentation gives lagers a more clean taste.

As a new beer hits your taste buds and you analyze its flavors and aromas, generally you’re thinking about the malt and the hops. Personally, I think yeast is the real star here. Without it, what you know as beer would just be grainy-mash water.

Do you play around with fermentation? Got some home-brew in the cellar, kimchi in the crock?

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A Fat Tuesday with Beer in Dreamland

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This upcoming Tuesday is Mardi Gras! I don’t know about you, but I come from a land where every bakery has a line to the parking lot full of people waiting for their custard-oozing doughnuts. Whether you participate in Lent or not, we can all use an excuse to include some calorie rich sweets and good beer in our diet, right? Just for a day…

Let’s take a look at some popular traditional sweets consumed during Mardi Gras. We’ve got a beer to pair with all of ‘em!
But first.. what is Mardi Gras?
Mardi Gras always falls on a Tuesday, and is the culmination of the 2 week Mardi Gras season, usually accompanied by parades and carnivals. Catholics have been gorging the whole time, and Mardi Gras is the day to really make it count before Ash Wednesday, the first day in the season of fasting. As is the case with many widely celebrated holidays, Mardi Gras supplies reason to party. Unique to this holiday: see how many beads you can collect and get in touch with your French side.
King cake is a doughnut shaped cake flamboyantly decorated by purple, green, and gold sugar and frosting. The cake’s dough is somewhat cinnamony and the frosting is sweet, sometimes with a slight lemony taste. The best part of all? A porcelain or plastic tiny baby is hidden inside the cake! Whoever gets the piece with the baby has to produce the cake next year. Those packs of tiny plastic babies at party supply stores finally make sense. King cake pairs well with our Red Tail Ale, which has a harmonious malt and hop balance. Citrus notes from American hops complement the frosting’s light lemon flavors.
Paczki’s are Polish doughnuts filled with jelly, custard, or some sweet filling. It’s common in the midwest to get down with a paczki on Fat Tuesday—save the king cake for the southerners. Pair a cherry-filled paczki with our Imperial Stout for a marriage of cherry and chocolate flavor decadence. You’re definitely going to want to give yourself a minute or two to process this fried pastry and full-bodied, 10% ABV beer duo. They don’t call it Fat Tuesday for nothing!
Little round cookie treats with a layer of marshmallow, sandwiched between layers of graham cracker-like cookies coated in chocolate define moon pies. Throwing them from Mardi Gras floats to parade goers has made them a hallmark Fat Tuesday treat. Moon pies aren’t too heavy and go down pretty easy, much like our Black Hawk Stout. The crispness of our stout washes down the drier graham cracker layer. Black Hawk Stout’s malt personality is heavenly with the sweet marshmallow center.

 

What are you giving up for Lent? Just taking advantage of another reason to drink beer and eat all the baked goods?

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This Beer Was Made for You and Me

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Today, let’s look at a classic American style beer. American Amber Ale is brewed with two row malt and the addition of caramel or crystal malts, which lends it its beautiful reddish color and sets it apart from pale ales.

During the resurgence of the microbrewery movement in the 1980’s, American brewers were producing beers that had attributes of both pale ales and brown ales, but weren’t quite one or the other. To Americans, calling these beers that had an amber hue a pale ale felt debatable, despite their similarities. Most of our current beer styles got their origins from European countries. These brews were not as pale in color as the pilsners that dominated the beer market, but our European counterparts were not just referring to color when they called their brews pale ales. At first a color descriptor, the American Amber Ale soon became a formal style name. What else makes this beer American? The use of American hops.

Give American Amber Ale a go if you are a new beer drinker. It isn’t quite as bitter and assertively hoppy as IPA’s, or as dark and heavy as some stouts. With refreshing, citrusy hops balanced by the dominant malty sweetness, American amber ale is a safe go-to beer style at the pub. And for those of you who are not new to beer, choosing an American amber ale is just patriotic. Next time you’re throwing one back remember that you’re honoring a piece of our part in the craft brew revolution.

So, what is Mendo bringing to the table?

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Red Tail Ale is a brilliantly smooth, medium bodied American Amber Ale brewed traditionally with two-row malted barley, hops, and our own exceptional yeast strain. Amber in color with a caramel aroma, this ale has a taste that is complex and invigorating. Our Red Tail Ale makes a great reference for the style, is very drinkable, and pairs with just about anything. Some American faire to go with it: burgers, sandwiches, roasted chicken, barbecue, pizza.

Do you have a soft spot for amber ales? Thinking of grabbing some to go with dinner tonight?

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“How Do You Know So Much About Beer?”

 

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These days, everyone has access to a plethora of styles of beers made by an endless amount of breweries. Not all of these are created equal. With that access to beer, comes increased access to the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions about the beers consumers are dropping their cash on.

Local Breweries
With an appreciation for handmade goods and support of smaller, localized companies at the heart of their monetary values— millennials are drinking the craft brew kool-aid. Breweries can be designed so patrons may see behind the scenes and marvel at the shiny, stainless equipment that their pint was born in. To be so close to the brewing process and able to discuss the nuances of the beer with those who made it, consumers are having valuable conversations with the team that creates their beer.

Beer Festivals
Droves of breweries bring their best brews to beer festivals to allow drinkers to try smaller portions of beers. With the ability to try new styles of beer, or compare the same style done by various breweries, drinkers can contemplate and discuss the finer points of what makes a beer distinct and pleasant. It was at a beerfest that I discovered that I really love the acidic tang of sour beers.

Homebrewing
Homebrewing is a firsthand way to learn about beer styles, and it has been steadily gaining popularity (1.2 million homebrewers in the US!). Anyone with an interest in ferments and fun can start brewing at home inexpensively. If not you’re not homebrewing, then one of your friends is.

Books and Online Resources
If you head to your local book store, you’ll be sure to find a book or two about beer. It could be an instructional on home brewing or a consuming graphic novel on the history of beer. Furthermore, if one is really feeling a beer they can whip out their smart phone and be on a brewery’s website, describing what is fizzing on their tastebuds.
All of these things are lending themselves to the base knowledge of the American consumer. If your friend takes a swig of their first craft brew and decides they’re jumping on the beer enthusiast bandwagon, there are so many ways they can speed up the newbie to connoisseur process. Read a book. Talk to brewers. Buy your beerfest ticket. Brew at home.

It would appear that there is no reason not to know the basics. How did these things help you learn about the many facets of beer? Were there any other essential components to your informal beer education?

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This History of Happy Hour

neon-170182_1280Happy hour, a well-loved American tradition, originated in the 19th century as a common slang term among the US Navy used to describe the time allotted for entertainment, including activities like wrestling, chorus singing, and boxing.

The phrase started being used in relation to drinking in the Prohibition era, when a ban was put in place to avoid the production, transportation, and buying and selling of alcohol, beginning in 1920. The started as a result of a long and hard-fought campaign by people who characterized drinking alcohol as evil. Even though the ban was successful for a short period of time, many drinkers ignored this law.

Drinkers soon flocked to bars and clubs, using the term “happy hour” to talk in code about their tradition of drinking before dinner. After spending a huge amount of money enforcing the law against alcohol, the federal government experienced a huge drop in tax revenue. By 1933, many businesses crumbled under the suffering economy, and workers were leaving the workforce to illegally produce and serve alcohol, making a tax-free earning. The constitution was modified and thus ended the era of prohibition.

So, the next time you gather with your friends to grab a cup of cold beer, you might want to raise your glass to “prohibition era” and relish in the fact that the American people simply wouldn’t stop drinking.

And so, while the ban was lifted, the term “happy hour” stuck around. The resurgence of drinking in the time before dinner made its comeback in the mid-1970s, even while alcohol consumption was dropping drastically as strict laws were made against drunk driving.

Interestingly enough, the discounted costs associated with happy hour are currently banned in twenty-six states. This includes Massachusetts, even though Boston has the reputation of being “the drunkest city in America.” We’re willing to bet that even in states where the discounts are banned, the happy hour tradition is still alive and well.

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Wondering How to Pair Your Pale Ale with Dinner?

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You can hardly go wrong with a pale ale, as much cuisine lends itself well to this well-loved type of beer.

The Belgium beer tradition is outstanding as it has a close relationship with food and flows well with all type of dish and desserts, setting the precedence for the trend of food and beer pairing. Grilled meats, and vegetable and meat stews are complemented best with dark Belgian ale. Bright Belgian ale is better combined with spicy foods like turkey meat or fried pheasant.

English ale goes wonderfully with meat pies, hamburgers, and a classic British fish and chips. Another go-to combination is Indian Pale Ale with spicy dishes.

When you want the best fit for light meals like seafood or salad, German ale is the best option. It goes well with a variety of dishes, including grilled chicken and pork, and salad. Weizenbock should be taken with roasted pork, beef or wild poultry. Kölsch beer, which is ale that is fermented at lager temperature, flows well with lighter food like shrimps, salad and crabs. You can also have it with eggs and bacon because of this particular beer’s sweetness, as it serves as a perfect combination with the salty taste of a hearty meal of eggs and bacon. Hybrid Dusseldorf Altbier is another German beer that goes well with the popular Mexican-American cuisine, like a stuffed Mexican Burrito or a rich Mexican quesadilla.

Light ale is a perfect fit for Indian cuisine, fish, poultry dish and meat, as the bitterness of the plant from which it is brewed contrasts perfectly with the flavor of grilled dishes. You should also consider tasting it alongside meals featuring blue cheese, burgers, and meat pies. Foods like chicken, seafood and spicy meals pairs extremely with American amber ale. Alternatively, American wheat ale tastes better with vegetarian dishes, sushi, and green salad. Heavy and hearty food such as game or roasted beef fits nicely with strong light drinking ale. Due to the persistent flavor and sweet aroma, Strong and hot wine from Barley balances well with mold cheese.

Stouts are ideal for drinking with smoked meat, stewed meat or even meaty soups. Stout also makes a great combination with nuts, especially peanuts and coconut. Porters are amazing with smoked meat like pork, steak bacon or sausage. If you want to really complement dessert with a stout, opt for coffee or chocolate based desserts, as they tend to complement the taste of coffee flavors or chocolate desserts.

We hope this simple guide can help you feel confident the next time you’re hosting a meal, or if you’re simply interested in experimenting with different flavor combinations. Have fun finding your favorite combinations – there’s nearly an infinite number of ways to play around with our basic suggestions!

Click one of the links below to find some of our favorite beers and meal pairings!

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