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The Most Metal Beer Art Ever?

Attendees of the upcoming Great American Beer Festival in Denver should check out the “Collaborative Evil” event in the Brewers Studio Pavilion, September 24 at 6:30 p.m.

What is Collaborative Evil? Steve Altimari, the brewmaster at Valley Brewing, explains the concept: Nine brewers (mostly friends and acquaintances) have agreed on a style (Belgian golden strong ale) and some basic parameters and limitations they wanted to follow (that “it be not loaded with spices, be fairly dry in finish, and … that each brewer would choose a secret sugar ingredient to differentiate the beers from one another”), and have all made different versions of the beer to pour at the festival.

The whole thing has been put together by Todd Ashman of FiftyFifty Brewing Company, and this is the second year he has organized a collaborative beer for the Festival. In 2008, the Collaborative Evil project only included three breweries, but all of them received A- or better reviews on BeerAdvocate. It will be interesting to see how this year’s batch of brews comes out.

(As well as FiftyFifty and Valley, the other collaborators are: Sacramento Brewing, Fat Head’s Brewery and Saloon, Flossmoor Station, Oakshire Brewing, Silver Peak Brewery, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, and Lucky Bucket Brewing).

If all that isn’t enough to get you interested, how about the sweet metal-esque label art (pictured). Ashman commissioned it, and is also responsible for the name, an extension of a beer called “Evil” he was brewing. The art covers all your metal basics, and would look pretty awesome painted on the side of a van. “No, we are not all metal heads,” claims Altimari, while Ashman explains that “we’re trying to have fun with this … the beer, the GABF tasting, and working together of course.”

Mmm, Numbing, Fishy Whiskey

From the “interesting weirdness” department comes Cognac.com’s handy list of “10 Asian Liquors Most Likely to Give You the Creeps,” a squeamish look at booze with a little something extra. Like, oh, whiskey with cobra snake (Spirits Review says it has a “fishy, hot taste” and numbs “every part that comes into contact with it”). Scorpion vodka. No, wait, maybe you want to get that good scorpion flavor with a dash of fruit, as in Banana Flavoured Scorpion Liqueur.

There’s a whole raft of this stuff for sale at Thailand Unique, which seems to specialize in products intended to shock the Western palate. Pregnant crickets, anyone?

Drink Like a Viking

You heard it here first: Norwegian craft brew is going to be HUGE! Well, maybe not, but it’s still really good. Here are two small, experimental breweries that are exporting interesting beer to the United States. Shelton Brothers is distributing both companies’ beer in the States, and you can order it online from Sam’s Wines & Spirits.

HaandBryggeriet: Brewmaster Jens Maudal is trying to revive ancient beer styles from back in the day when brewing was mandated by law in Norway and the beers would have varied from village to village based on the local yeasts, hops, malt, and gruit, spices and herbs that Maudal says might have been used in lieu of hops. (Today he says the country drinks mostly homogeneous pilsners.) The most traditional of HaandBryggeriet’s brews is Norwegian Wood, a smoky ale (“All old beers used to have some smoky taste because they dried the homemade malt over open fire,” explains Maudal) flavored with juniper twigs and berries collected from the woods outside the brewery.

Two others that are soon to be released: Hesjeøl, a smoky harvest ale brewed with three different grains, normally a low-alcohol beer for farm laborers to drink during the harvest but amped up “for today’s not-so-hard-working beer drinkers,” says Maudal; and Wild Thing, a farmhouse fruit ale made with red currants and mountain cranberries, and fermented with Brett yeast to give it a pleasantly barnyardy, sour taste.

Nøgne Ø: Nøgne Ø makes great saison, pale, and amber ales, imperial brown ale, and IPA. It just released Tyttebær (which means lingonberry), a sour fruit beer made with Danish brewery Mikkeller in 2007 that’s been aging in the fermentation vessels and then in the bottles. Nøgne Ø brewer Kjetil Jikiun is also experimenting with extremely high-alcohol beers (17 to 18 percent) made with sake yeast, which can stand up to the higher alcohol levels without dying off. A soon-to-be-released holiday brew called Special Holiday Ale was made as a three-way collaboration with Stone Brewing and Jolly Pumpkin same recipe was brewed at the three individual breweries, with their unique styles. The one brewed at Stone last year is already sold out, but Nøgne Ø’s version will be released this year for the holidays. Jolly Pumpkin is still aging its version, which isn’t slated to come out of barrels until 2010.

Breathe In Your Booze

Why drink your booze when you can don a hazmat suit and stand around breathing in gin fumes? That’s the question London bar/art installation Alcoholic Architecture asks. Open only for two three-day sessions (one last week and one lasting through Saturday), the bar is a project of prankish British design firm Bompas & Parr, known for its custom-molded bespoke jellies and “flavour tripping” parties at which participants consume miracle fruit.

Apparently, standing in the stinky mist for 40 minutes is about the equivalent of one drink. But I agree with Dlisted, which snarks: “Now, do you get to drink gin as well as breathe it in? ... After 20 minutes of not getting drunk by breathing in booze vapors, I’d sniff out the source and stick my mouth on the damn mister. 40 minutes sober in a bar feels like ten lifetimes to a drunk!”

This video, by ITN’s This Is Genius, will tell you more, but be warned: You’ll really want to punch the guy who says, “Hence, ‘Alcoholic Architecture,’” with an astonishingly smug expression.

Wine: It’s Bad for You Again!

“Average wine drinker puts on half a stone of fat a year, says campaign group,” whatever that means. Ah, it’s British—in American English the headline would read, “Average wine drinker puts on seven pounds of fat a year, says campaign group.”

That’s a fair bit of weight. But the British government’s campaign is based on the somewhat dubious assumption that all alcohol consumption comes in addition to a full day of calories, abetted by the idea that alcohol consumption demands the additional eating of fatty/salty snacks. The Telegraph compounds the damage with odd math, suggesting that “the average wine drinker consumes an extra 2,000 calories a month—the equivalent of 184 bags of crisps.” Crisps are potato chips, but is any bag of chips a mere 11 calories?

Two facts are apparent after reading the story: One, yes, alcohol has calories, and anyone who doesn’t understand that is probably dealing with bigger problems than unexpected weight gain. And two, the British government seems absolutely heedless of enhancing its reputation as the world’s most clucking, scolding nanny state.

Tea Has Arrived

Specialty tea is the hot new drink of hot young techies, says Wired magazine. Is this news? I dunno. Tea’s been around for ages, and now it seems like just another niche market to get people to spend egregious amounts of money on obscure varieties of something that has supposed cachet.

But serious tea connoisseurs certainly exist, and they’ve got some tips on how to properly steep your tea if you wanna be serious about it too.

Long Island Iced 401(k) Anyone?

The New Yorker speculates that 2009’s economic climate will inspire a new breed of cocktail. Some of its recipe ideas:

“Long Island Iced 401(k): Put hopes in shaker. Add dreams. Shake until dashed, then drink all the vodka, gin, tequila, and rum left in liquor cabinet.”

“BlackBerry Sling: Discover that your BlackBerry doesn’t work because you haven’t paid the bill. Sling it against the wall, then buy a prepaid phone and make some rum in your toilet.”

Other recipes include Trickle-Down Punch, Nasdaiquiri, and Tequila Slumlord.

Using Rhubarb Juice in Cocktails

Bon Appétit has a recipe in its April issue (not online, sorry) for Virginia bar PX’s Double R Daiquiri. At the bar, bartender/owner Todd Thrasher uses fresh rhubarb juice in the drink in addition to some citrus.

While juicing the rhubarb sounds like a hassle—they suggest puréeing it, sieving it, then squishing any remaining juice from the pulp by hand—I love the idea of using it fresh in a drink and leveraging its bitter/sour flavor, as opposed to making it into a syrup. (Though syrup has its own merits, like in our Touch of Evil cocktail or Knockout Punch recipe.)

It looks like I’m not alone. Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn recently spotlighted a cocktail created by Franny’s in Brooklyn made with fresh rhubarb juice, Aperol, and vodka. And there’s a whole section of drink recipes at the rhubarb fetish site Savor-the-Rhubarb.com.

Cartoon Cocktails and Other Made-Up Drinks

Eric Felten published an amusing look at fictional cocktails from cartoons, movies, and books this week over at the Wall Street Journal. It’s a good read, and you have to love the fact that Felten has taken the subject of Flanders Planter’s Punch from The Simpsons (“three shots of rum, a jigger of bourbon, and just a little dab-a-roo of crème de cassis for flavor”) seriously enough to analyze it next to the traditional Planter’s Punch recipe:

“A traditional Planters Punch is made of rum, fresh lime juice and sugar syrup. The Ned Flanders version adds bourbon, which is an interesting variation, and then substitutes a sweet fruit liqueur (the crème de cassis) for the sugar syrup, which is a standard strategy for personalizing a classic. But what’s missing from Ned’s concoction is the lime juice necessary to balance the sweetness of the cassis. That, and sensible portions.”

My Name Is Kid Rock Beer

The AP reports that Kid Rock is teaming up with the Michigan Brewing Company in Webberville, Michigan to create a branded beer. The new brew will send over $700,000 in tax credits the company’s way, and NPR says Kid Rock hopes it will help to create about 400 new jobs for the ailing community.

This is not Kid Rock’s first attempt at creating his own beer. There was chatter last fall about a deal he signed with Drinks Americas, maker of other celebrity boozes such as Dr. Dre Cognac and Trump Vodka, but we haven’t seen any sign of that beer actually coming to market. No bother, now he can appear altruistic and still get paid.