Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Bodhi

So what does it take to become a "cult beer"? That is, a beer with a following that is so passionate that they will do just about anything -- drive distances, stand in line, pay extra -- just to have a pint or buy a bottle of a beer?  I began thinking about this issue after trying a bottle of Columbus Brewing Company's Bodhi Double IPA.  My dad described this beer as a cult beer.  So, what does it take to achieve that status?

I did some searching, but I was unable to find anything that would set forth criteria for what constitutes a cult beer.  Instead, most articles simply tell you which beers are "cult beers."  And, I found an article that describes the Bodhi as having achieved "cult" status.  Marc Bona, a writer with, described the Bodhi as having a "strong, fresh citrus aroma that hits you immediately [that] is followed quickly by wonderful tropical flavors, and, then, seconds later on each sip, a big hop smack."  That's some description, and, it provides a little insight into what it takes become a cult beer.

Simply put, it is the beer itself.  The Bodhi pours a golden color, which one would expect with a double India Pale Ale.  Depending upon the light, there was an orange hue that shined through.  As I stared at the beer, the thin foam gracing the surface of the beer began to recede.

As that foam retreated to the edges of the glass, the aromatic elements of the hops began to shine through.  Notes of citrus fruit, with a little pine greet the nose, but are balanced by the softer tones of the malts.  The taste of the Bodhi, at least for me, began with the pine, with grass, floral and herb tones.  However, with each sip, the flavor transitioned to citrus fruit, such as grapefruit, and tangerines.  The bitter finish lingers on the tongue and the back of the mouth long after the beer is gone.  Perhaps that is the "big hop smack."

The Bodhi is definitely a great example of a double IPA (or, as it is also known, an Imperial IPA). It follows the style well, pushing the envelope in getting big hop aromas and flavors.  While I can't say that the Bodhi is a "cult beer," I can say that if I saw it on tap or in bottle, I'd have another one.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Chef Bolek's Italian Beef Sandwiches

The Chicago-Style Italian Beef Sandwich has been on Chef Bolek's "Bucket List" for a very long time.  It all began with a trip to Chicagoland.  I was visiting my sister and her family, and, we went to a place called Portillo's.  I had my first Chicago-Style Italian Beef sandwich there.  It was amazing.  

Fast forward several years later, and, my beautiful Angel bought me a roast from a local store.  My mind immediately turned to making Italian Beef Sandwiches out of that roast.  So, I did what I always do, and that is to set out and learn about what I am going to make.

The origin of the Chicago-style Italian Beef Sandwich appears to be somewhat lost to history, although there are some who claim to know how the sandwich came to be.  Generally speaking, the sandwich was created by Italian immigrants who came to Chicago to work in the stockyards.  They were only able to afford the tougher cuts of beef, which they would roast in a pan with beef stock.  Once the roast was cooked, they would slice it thinly, dip the meat back in the juices, and then pile it onto bread with some giardiniera (which is a relish of carrots, cauliflower, olives, and peppers in vinegar.  Once the sandwich was prepared, it would also be dipped into the juices).  If you want to learn more about the history of this sandwich, you can cheek out Thrillist or Amazing Ribs

I wanted to get to making this sandwich.  The recipe is relatively easy to make.  I created my own Italian style rub -- basil, oregano, garlic, onion, salt and pepper -- and then marinated the meat overnight.  The next day, I roasted the meat until it was medium rare and then set it aside as I strained the jus from the bottom of the roasting pan for the dipping.  After the beef rested, I sliced it thinly, piled it high on a bun and added some hand-chopped giardiniera.  The end result was as delicious as the sandwiches I had in Chicago.  

Recipe Inspired by Many Others
Serves a lot

1 (4 to 5 pound) top sirloin roast, sirloin tip roast or other roast
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 tablespoon basil
1/3 tablespoon oregano
1/2 cup beef broth or stock, plus more for jus
1 bottle of giardiniera, drained
Sub rolls

1.  Prepare the roast.  Mix the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, rosemary, basil and oregano.   Spread the rub over the roasts, making sure that all sides of the roast are covered.  Wrap the roast and refrigerate overnight. 

2.  Roast the beef.  Place the beef in a roasting pan.  Add 1/2 cup of beef broth or beef stock.   Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the roasting pan in the oven and roast the beef until it is medium rare, about 145 degrees.  This will take about one and one-half hours.  Remove the roast from the oven and the pan.  Tent with foil and let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes.  

3.  Toast the rolls.  While the meat is resting, brush olive oil on the sub rolls and toast them for about one to two minutes under the broiler. 

4.  Prepare the giardiniera.  Chop the various vegetables in the giardiniera, until they are small pieces.  Place in a bowl and set aside.   

3.  Finish the dish.  Strain the juices from the roasting pan and set aside.  If you need more as an au jus, stir in some warm beef stock or broth.  Slice the beef into thin slices.  Dip the slices into the au jus and place on the bun.  Spoon over the chopped giardiniera over the beef and serve with a small dipping container of au jus.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Black Flag Flying Over Columbia

The Black Flag stands in direct opposition to the established norms.  That is a statement tat, as a fan of punk music, I would expect from Henry Rollins, the singer for the hardcore punk band that goes by that name.  However, the italicized sentence sums up Black Flag Brewing Company, a relatively new brewery in Columbia, Maryland.  

I have to admit that the name is catchy, because I am a big fan of the punk rock band, Black Flag.  When I saw the signs for the brewery, Black Flag, thoughts emerged In My Head about how I'm the One who would drive From Hell and Back to grab a Six Pack for a TV Party in a Padded Cell known as Room 13.  6 song titles and 1 album title in one sentence about getting beer.  Not to shabby.

With that out of the way, we visited Black Flag Brewing to check out the taproom and the beers.  The brewery is trying to keep from being type-cast in the craft beer world.  Its owner does not want to be known for a specific style of beer (for example, Sierra Nevada and its IPAs).  Thus, the ten taps that lie behind the bar have a range of styles including a blonde, Belgian saison, sour, breakfast stout, pale ale and a Double IPA, as well as seasonals like an Octoberfest and a pumpkin beer. 

The first beer I tried was the Mambo Sauce (which itself is a reference to the condiment found in Washington, D.C. area restaurants that is akin to a barbecue sauce.   Black Flag's Mambo Sauce is nothing like the bottles that might grace a restaurant table.  The brewery describes its beer as a "big tropical monster," with "huge juicy hop additions hidden behind smooth bitterness."  

The Mambo Sauce DIPA is pictured to the right.  The beer pours a golden-orange color, with a little haziness; but, it comes as advertised.  The aromatic elements are full of ripe citrus fruit, such as grapefruit, tangerine and lemons.   Those aromatic elements carry through to the taste of the beer, although they are couched in the malt tones, which add a little sweetness to the flavor profile of the beer.  The latter are the result of the brewers' efforts to smooth out the bitterness of the hops.  The effort to round out the bitterness represents, to a certain degree, the efforts to be non-conformist.  After all, most DIPAs push the bold hop aromas and flavors, not thinking too much about the malts.  

In the end, Black Flag Brewery illustrates the promise of the craft beer movement in Maryland: new  breweries open, creating beers that stand out on their own.  We will definitely be stopping in again ... very soon.  


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Smoked Ribeye Roast

While the prime rib roast -- or standing rib roast -- is the king of cuts (in my humble opinion), that roast can be very difficult to find in grocery stores, especially outside of certain major holidays.  The roast is cut from the rib section of the cow, from the sixth bone to the twelfth bone.  The entire cut, from the bones, to the eye and the layers of fat, give rise to a cut of meat that is amazing delicious and expensive.  I love prime rib roasts, which are often my go-to recipe when I entertain.  (I almost never buy the entire seven bones of the roast, which is a lot of meat and very expensive.  I usually go with a roast that is about 3 bones or, at most, 4 bones).

Take away the bones, you have a large central muscle that runs through the roast, which is the ribeye roast.  For some reason, it is easier to find ribeye roasts than it is to find standing rib roasts.  My beautiful Angel recently bought a ribeye roast for me to cook or smoke.  I have been wanting to smoke a standing rib or ribeye roast for quite a while, so this presented an opportunity for a little experimentation and education.

A few months ago, I bought a book called Prime: The Complete Prime Rib Cookbook.  I have been wanting to use this cookbook and the ribeye roast presented the perfect opportunity.  The cookbook has a recipe for a smoked prime rib.  The recipe calls for the use of a standing rib roast.  While I did not have that roast, I decided to adapt the recipe for a ribeye roast.  I jettisoned the instructions for handling the bones and tying the roast with fresh herbs.   I also modified the instructions for the rubs, developing a two part rub based upon what I had in my spice drawer.  The first rub part is just freshly grounded black pepper and kosher salt.  The second part is a mixture of ground and dried herbs, with some ground onion and minced garlic.  

Recipe adapted from John Whalen, 
Prime: The Complete Prime Rib Cookbook, pg. 108-109
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients (for the rib roast):
1 ribeye roast (about 4 pounds)
1/8 cup of extra olive oil (plus more if necessary)
2 tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of sea salt or Kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/2 tablespoon granulated onion powder
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
3 chunks of hickory, oak or mesquite chunks

Ingredients (for the au jus):
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Coarsely ground black pepper
Fresh sea salt.

1.  Prepare the rib roast.  About two days before the smoke, combine the salt and black pepper in a small bowl.  Apply the rub to the roast, making sure that the rub covers the entire roast.  Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

2.  Continue to prepare the rib roast.  In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, dried thyme, dried rosemary and onion powders with the olive oil.  Add a little more oil to get the desired consistency if necessary.  Generously massage the meat with the garlic and herb rub so that it clings to the cap of the rib roast.

3.  Prepare the grill.  Prepare the fire to feature both direct and indirect heat with an average low temperature of about 300 degrees.  You'll wan tot make sure that you have a strong foundational layer of coals so that you can easily maintain the heat and smoke as you grill your prime rib.  While you prepare the grill, add the hickory or maple wood chips or chunks. 

5.  Smoke the roast.  When the fire is ready, at about 300 degrees with the coals lightly covered with ash, place the rib roast over the direct heat of the grill and sear each side, including the ends, for about 2 to 3 minutes each.  Transfer the rib roast over the direct heat and flip the rib roast to meat side up.  Take a handful of wood chips and throw them over the flame.  Cover the grill, aligning the air vent away from the fame so that the smoke pillows around the rib roast, and begin slowly roasting about 3 to 4 hours until the rib roast is charred and an instant thermometer reads 125 degrees.  For the first 3 hours of the grilling process, distribute handfuls of the hickory or maple wood chips about every 30 minutes or so.

6.  Prepare the au jus.  Combine the wine and broth and heat over medium low heat.  Whisk the butter.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

7.  Finish the dish.  Remove the rib roast from the grill and transfer to a large carving board.  Let stand for 10 minutes before carving, allowing the meat to properly store its juices.  


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tugboat Brewing, R.I.P.

The year was 2007.  That was the first time I visited Tugboat Brewing Company.  I had traveled to the city of Portland, Oregon for work.  That work guaranteed that I would be in Portland for a few days.  After I finished my work, I would return to my hotel, the Benson, and take some time to think about what I would do for dinner and a drink.  The drink was almost always a pint of craft beer.  

I knew of Rogue Ales and I visited its Portland taproom.  I learned about Deschutes Brewing and ate at its brewpub.  I enjoyed both of those breweries,  their food, and their beers.  But, if one were to ask which Portland brewery was the most memorable, my response would have been Tugboat Brewing Company, with its slogan: Small. Powerful. Hardworking. 

The brewery opened in 1989 in a small hole in the wall on S. Ankeny Street.  One block up, turn left.  I remember the little storefront, with the neon sign.  I opened the door and was greeted by cigarette smoke.  It was thick.  It hung in the air, just as naturally as the books that lined the shelves on the wall.  Straight ahead was the bar, with the handles.  There were about half a dozen Tugboat handles, which was quite a feat for a brewery that had enough equipment to brew only one beer at a time.  The rest of the handles were "guest beers" from other breweries, both local and distant.  I was not there for the guest beers.  I was there for the beers that embodied the brewery.  Small.  Powerful.  Hardworking.  

I walked up to the bar, where there would be one or two other people sitting.  I ordered a Tugboat beer and tried to relax. I spent the time trying to forget about the work that brought me to Portland, while thinking about what I could do with my free time.  And, in between all of that, I kept thinking about how this small brewery kept going.  Pint after pint.  Day after day.  Year after year.  Until the end of August 2017.  

I'll be honest.  I don't remember the names of any of Tugboat beers.  I cannot describe any of the beers for you as I write this post. After all, it has been several years since I have been to Portland, Oregon. However, I can say that the beers were very good.  How do I know that?  The answer is simple: every time that I visited the City of Roses (Portland), I made a visit to Tugboat Brewing, sat down at the bar, and had a couple of beers.   

Recently, my parents were traveling through Portland.  I asked them to stop by Tugboat to buy me a new hat.  (The hat I bought on one of my trips was getting old.)  That's when I learned of the news.  Tugboat Brewing had closed its doors.  The issues had nothing to do with the brewery itself, but with the other tenants in the building.  Still, it is sad to lose a little spot where I gained some memories. I hope that the owners of Tugboat Brewing decide to revive their little brewery.  If they do, I'll make my way back to Portland.