Friday, June 29, 2012

Hudson Four Grain Bourbon

All bourbon is made with at least 51 percent corn (most of them are more like 70+), 10-15 percent malted barley, and then a secondary flavoring grain, usually either rye or wheat.  The most famous wheater is Maker's Mark, but you may have heard of the Weller line of bourbon, Old Fitzgerald, or Pappy Van Winkle, all wheated bourbons.  Hudson Four Grain has intrigued me for a while, as, you guessed it, they use both rye and wheat in addition to barley and corn.  Hudson whiskies are distilled in New York at the Tuthilltown Gristmill, which according to the bottle is a National Historic Site.  I like to try boutique or "craft" whiskies at times, but, as I've stated before, unlike the beer world, in whisky the little guys are still playing catch up in terms of quality, and it's always a risk.  I haven't tried it yet as the price point is about $40 for a 375ml bottle, that's more $ per drop than most high end bourbons, including the giant George T. Stagg and the rest of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (granted they are harded to find).  But after the guy in the store talked up Tuthilltown and said they were offering $2 off, I bit the bullet.  I am drinking batch 14, bottle number 405, 92 proof.  The corn is a New York heirloom variety, and makes up about 60 percent of the mashbill.

Jim Murray's review says the nose is "a problem."  I don't find it particularly problematic, but it is on the sharp, alcoholic side rather than the soft, warming side, as far as noses go.  I found the nose more just a bit weak than anything else.  It's not particularly dark in color at 92 proof, it looks gold-like.

This is pretty good stuff.  Hudson uses smaller barrels for shorter aging, and I do think that has a negative impact.  There is a reason the better bourbons are aged for 6-8 years or more.  While smaller barrels allow for enough contact with the oak, something else happens in the magical aging process that I'm not sure you can replicate with smaller barrels in less time.  Here's further reading on it--small vs. large barrel debate--but this whisky is slightly rough around the edges.  I do think the four grains interplay nicely, you get a bit of rye cinnamon spice but it's still like eating wheat bread, soft and round and sweet.  Jason Pyle finds notes of rum and sourdough; there is a sort of "rumminess" to it.  One other thing I am getting is, well, paper.  Not in a bad way, and not that I've eaten a lot of paper.  But it's the only way I can describe it.  I guess paper is made from wood, maybe it's the oak I am getting, like a dryness.

Medium, pleasant.  No burn, for good or for bad.  Lingers shortly but too low a proof to have too much impact. 

It's a cool bottle, and it's always fun to try something made from a more local, small batch mindset.  I think it's real good stuff.  Jim Murray's Whisky Bible states, "Sort out a few gremlins and this promises to be a whisky to watch."   For me the main gremlin is the cost.  I just can't see putting down another 40 bucks or more, or even to try one of their other entries.  Jason Pyle from Sour Mash Manifesto says this is their best entry, so I'm glad I chose it.  But 375ml is only 7-8 pours, not the best value in my book.  I always compare whiskies to others first by taste and then by price point.  Is it better than Buffalo Trace's flagship brand.  Possibly.  Is it 3-4 times better?  No way.  As with any good bourbon, though, it does grow on you.  As I finish this post I wonder if I am being slightly too hard on it, because I am quite enjoying this pour.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Our Own Personal Beer Week Event

For our last beer week event, we decide to stay in, as we were partied out.  That doesn't mean we couldn't put together our own event, a beer dinner.  I am reading Garrett Oliver's book, The Brewmaster's Table, about beer and food pairing.  Oliver is the brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery, and it's a good read.  Look for a review post when I ever get around to finishing it.  Anyhow I wanted to try my hand at pairing some courses with some decent beers for my last event of Philly Beer Week 2012.  Here's the rundown:

Burrata with Snow Peas

For this course, we chose to crack open a bottle of homeade limoncello from my sister in law as an apperitif.  I imagine a good beer mate might be a refreshing wheat beer or crisp pale ale, something lemony and light.

Bloody Beet Steak, Steak

The bloody beet steak is a recipe from Farm and Fisherman, a nice byob in Philly.  My wife figured it out on her own last summer but has since found the recipe.  You cook the beets under a brick so they get flat and crispy, and serve them with crisy shallots.  Then we had an actual steak, a ribeye, with grilled green onions and roasted carrots from the farmer's market on East Passyunk.  For these courses, I wanted a beer with some heft, roastiness, and nice caramel malt flavor to match the caramalization of the steak and the beets. 

Enter Flying Fish Exit 8, Chestnut Brown Ale.  It was very rich and smooth, and did a nice job complementing the flavors of the food without overpowering them.  The Flying Fish Exit Series is great, I wish I would have stockpiled more of it, as each exit is limited release. 

Stilton with Berries and Apricot Honey

Port is stilton's friend in the wine world, so I wanted something boozy and sweet.  Enter Rogue Double Chocolate Stout, made with Dutch chocolate and coming in at 8% abv, in a nice painted bottle, I might add.  I enjoyed the beer, the cheese, and the berries, as well as the apricot spread.  I'm not 100% that the beer was the right match, but it was a good effort. 

I think it's great fun to improve your culinary life on all fronts, from knowing quality ingredients and cooking prowess to palate awareness and learning the principles of beverage pairings.  It can add a lot of enjoyment to everyday life--we need to eat everyday, we may as well learn to do it well.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Philly Beer Week (part 2)

Four Seasons With Love Beer Garden
This is supposed to be the homebase for the entire beer week event, a place to meet up with some friends before hitting some other events.  They have representatives to point you in the right direction if need be, and sell grilled burgers and a featured local brewer each night of beer week, along with Victory Summer Love all 5 weeknights.  It's a nice setting:
But I don't love paying $5 for Philadelphia Brewing Co. beers that are $22.50 for a case.  I had the Fleur de Lehigh, which used to be one of my favorite summer beers made with ginger and lemongrass.  I swear they've changed it though they tell me they didn't.  Maybe my taste has changed.  Anyway it was nice to meet up and then hit two more events.

Sierra Nevada tap takeover at Percy St. BBQ
Sierra Nevada is sort of overlooked in the craft scene, but when they came on the scence there were less than 100 breweries in the U.S; now there are well over 1,000.  Percy St. was pouring a bunch of their beer for $3.  We tried two rare ones, a chili chocolate stout that was very good and matched very nicely with the brisket sandwich, and one called Foundation, which was the beer that was the foundation of the recipe of a collaberation beer they did with Russian River, before brett yeast was added. 

Stoudts and Krauts at Brauhaus Schmitz
At the German beer hall on South St., I drank a liter of Stoudts' double maibock, a challenge at 7% abv.  It is brewed with honey and it was delicious.  A bit cloying by the end, but I got it down alright ;)

Stillwater at Hawthorne's
Stillwater makes some killer saisons.  We had dinner here before going to a port and dessert party.  We tried 3 of them here.  Ourside is a cross between Mikeller Stateside IPA and Stillwater Stateside saison.  A great mix of hops and herbs, earthy and rich but still refreshing.  My wife had Cellar Door, the summer entry from the Stateside lineup, and we shared one with honey that I can't find the name of right now but it was grassy and sweet and also good, definitely didn't taste like 9%...Hawthorne's make some solid food, too, the crabcake sliders with a side of crab topped "poutine" fries were great.

Maybe I will get in another event but to be honest I'm worn out.  Work has been crazy and I have been partying it up during beer week, burning the candle at both ends.  In any case, it's been worth it so far.  I love beer week.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Philly Beer Week (part 1)

This past Friday marked the beginning of Philly Beer Week.  I really wanted to maximize the first beer week weekend, as next weekend I will be out of town.  Here's a rundown of the events I was able to hit up.

World's Smallest Toast
La Chouffe (The Gnome) is one of the first Belgian beers I ever had, one fateful night at Eulogy Belgian Tavern, where we ordered Hoegaarden and the waitress called it beer for "pussies."  I digress.  On Friday if you went to Pub on Passyunk East (POPE) and ordered a Chouffe you could keep the glass.  It's pretty fun it says "Magic Chouffe" in reverse letters.

Cirque Du Saison Block Party
Tapestry is a bar on 5th and South which I drive by all the time but I've never been too.  I love Saisons so we decided to check it out.  They had live music and about 20 saisons on tap, featuring Stillwater, a bunch of Belgians, a bunch of which I'd never heard of.  I had the Stillwater Hoften collaboration called Bronze Age, it was pretty good, a bit dark in color for a saison and had quite a bit of tartness.  From there we went to dinner at Tashan, an upscale Indian restaurant.  It wasn't a beer week event but I did have a really interesting beer from Uncommon Brewers that was a Belgian dubbel brewed with coriander and kaffir lime.  Great match for the curry.  Also a solid pale ale from Maine called Peeper.

Craft Beer Day on East Passyunk Ave
EPunk is our 'hood, we had to stroll the avenue and support the local scene.  We started at Le Virtu, a real nice Abruzze Italian restaurant around the corner from us.  They were serving local beers from local startups Prism, Round Guys, and Evil Genius brewing, as well as some from Ommegang from Cooperstown, NY.  I had a Belgian IPA from Evil Genius which a friend of ours described as "juicy."  I also tasted the collaboration beer from all of the local brewers that were present which was a black belgian ipa.  I thought it was a bit underwhelming.  The Le Virtu staff were grilling up small plates for $5 each of vegetables, panchetta, and lamb.  They have a really nice garden area which was great until it started raining. 

It was still fun after we were jammed under the tent to stay dry.  We met some crazy Canadians and a couple from Utah who had just moved into Philly and were raving about how great Beer Week is.  They were fairly drunk at 2:30 PM; the one guy shattered his iphone face, I wonder how their day wound up...After Le Virtu we walked up to Stateside at the fountain for the Victory BeerBQ.  My wife and I shared a bone marrow sausage sandwich that tasted surprisingly light.  None of the Victory selections jumped out at me so I tried the Hibiscus Gose from Goose Island.  Gose is an underdone style which I think could catch on a bit, beer and salt are a nice combination.  From Stateside we wandered back down to Birra, a pizza place featuring American and Italian craft beers.  Their event was called IPA Day Tap Takeover.  I tried two IPAs, one oak aged double IPA from Southern Tier and Hopslam from Bells, which was probably the best beer I had during the whole weekend.  I could taste the honey, and had forgotten that it is indeed brewed with honey in addition to six hop varietals.  It has enough malt and alcohol content to balance the bitterness, and send me home for a nap.

Tonight I detox and then rally for hopefully a few more events this week.