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Saturday, January 30, 2010

What’s in a name?

Names are a funny thing. We use them to help us identify people and things but what if you don’t want to be identified? What if being identified in one part of your life hurts your identity in another part of your life? Well that is where I am. I am a teacher. I teach high schoolers. I have found that high school aged kids are extremely curious. I want to be able to express myself in any way I see fit so I decided I needed a penname, a name that I could post under and feel free to exclaim my love for all things beer. Coming up with a penname is hard, let me tell you. I considered a few different things but I knew it had to be related to Johnny Cash and thus Katy Too was born. I am a huge Johnny Cash fan, even more than beer. (Even as I type that I feel like I am speaking blasphemy.)Throughout the life of this blog you will most definitely see many Johnny Cash references. One example is the name I gave my husband. (If I get a penname, why can’t he have a pseudonym?) Porter is from another Johnny Cash song. (It is also a nice coincidence that porters are one of our favorite beers.)

I also think it is interesting how different beers are named and how some beers are re-named. The former is actually a pet peeve of mine. While I have recently begun to enjoy Gritty’s beer I am upset about the current change from Best Brown to Red Claw Ale. At first I was really excited about the possibility of a new beer but completely let down by the truth. This is not the first time Gritty’s pulled one over on me. After a night of snowboarding up at Shawnee Peak a stop at the bar was a must. I was so excited they had a Moose Pond Ale. I had never even heard of that before, what a treat. Wrong! It was a Pub Style from Gritty’s with a different pull. Arrggggggg!

Normally when I have an at home beer tasting I base it around a type of beer. So far Porter and I have had a stout tasting and a fall beer tasting. In honor of the theme of this blog I chose a bunch of beers with let’s just say, odd names. I did try to keep them all in the English style, so I guess there’s that as a unifier. Hen’s Tooth, Monkman’s Slaughter, Hobgoblin and Bad King John were all purchased at RSVP. (Outer Forest Ave, Portland) They have the most amazing beer selection. If you want something that they don’t have you can ask and they will try their best to get it for you.

I find names so intriguing I am sure that this will be a theme that comes up again. We haven’t even gotten into the fact that some large scale brewers are trying to capitalize on peoples’ love for micro breweries by putting their real name in tiny letters. That’s for another day though.

For now remember: Don’t be afraid to try something new. You just might like it.

Katy Too

Morland Brewing’s Hen’s Tooth

Bottle Conditioned English Ale

Appearance: In the bottle it was clear and whiskey color. Once I poured it into the glass it wasn’t clear at all. It appeared to be a slightly orangey copper color.

Aroma: it had a bright citrus hop smell.

Taste: It is a full flavored beer. I think that hops have a very distinct flavor to them but it isn’t necessarily what you would think hops would taste like if you had only smelled them before. This beer tastes like how you would expect hops to taste. It’s not overly carbonated and you can slightly taste the warmth of the alcohol.

Mouth feel: While this beer is neither heavy nor light in your mouth there is a full feel to it.

Overall: This beer is decent but not necessarily one I would go out of my way to drink again.

Cropton Brewery’s Monkman’s Slaughter

Extra Special Bitter

Appearance: It’s a dark reddish-chocolate brown color. It was quite cloudy.

Aroma: The only way I think I can describe it is if you can imagine fruit soaking in alcohol. Well it would be the same smell as the beer.

Taste: This beer was quite complex. Porter and I struggled to come up with just the right words but here they are: sour, acidic, bright lemon/green apple, and that is just the flavor that hits you first. In the middle there is a bitterness. At the end the bitterness sits on your tongue.

Mouth feel: There is only a moderate mouth feel. Other reviews I read said it was thick but neither Porter nor I felt a thickness to it.

Overall: While I couldn’t drink too many of these in a row I do agree with Porter, “It’s nice to have a beer that tastes like nothing you’ve ever had before.”

Wychwood Brewery’s Hobgoblin

Dark English Ale

Appearance: It’s a dark deep red, so dark that you can’t see through it. It didn’t appear to be cloudy at all.

Aroma: It has a subtle sweet cupcake smell. (I love cupcakes!)

Taste: There is extremely little carbonation. It was quite watery. You could mainly feel the coldness and not really taste much flavor. The saltiness of popcorn brings out the alcohol flavor.

Mouth feel: It has a very light feeling in your mouth.

Overall: A beer I would not try again.

Ridgeway Brewing’s Bad King John

A very English black ale

Appearance: It is an extraordinarily dark coal black. No light was able to get through.

Aroma: There is a very faint chocolate aroma to it.

Taste: It has a roasted/ burnt coffee flavor to it. There is a slight mellow sweetness to it. It has a bitter after taste. It gets smoother and sweeter as you get closer to the bottom of your glass.

Mouth feel: It definitely moving towards a heavier feeling in your mouth.

Overall: The beginning is a bit rough but it would be quite tasty by number two or three.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Art of Cooking with Beer

Ok perhaps I haven’t gotten it down to an art but it is something I truly enjoy and think that I am pretty good. I have become quite good at putting together delicious meals but I have also had some colossal failures. When dining at my house you are in for an adventure. I use recipes more as a guideline, something someone else came up with as a starting point for me to improve on. While Porter and I have enjoyed numerous meals that were worthy of any restaurant we have also been victims of pad thai that is too sweet, pad thai that is too fishy and one cake that was so strong that if you ate more than one serving you would fail a sobriety test.

Tonight we are having beef slow cooked in a winter ale. The plan was to have this last night for dinner but after checking my guideline and finding that it took 6 hours to cook and it was already 6 at night we decided that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were a better choice. Early this morning before heading to work I salt and peppered it and left it in the fridge beside the beer. The wonderful thing about slow cooking in my house is that it can be started in the middle of the day. Porter works from home. He put the roast in the oven at about noon set to 225°. By the time I walked through the door the entire house smelled like bread. There were hints of meat and some brightness to the smell to let me know just what was happening. My husband was in agony, having to smell it for 3 hours already and not being able to eat any of it.

Now you may be asking, “Katy Too, wherever did you get the idea for making such a delicious sounding dish?” The answer is quite simple. I love Planet Green. For those who don’t know because they live under a rock or don’t have cable, Planet Green is a tv channel up in the 500’s somewhere. All of their programming is based on greenness. When they first came on the air it seemed like they played the same 5 shows on a loop but now they are much more diverse. There is a cooking show with Emeril and while he is not my favorite tv chef, I love that he helps people find solutions to their cooking problems. They oh so cleverly name it, “Emeril Green.” The particular episode that sparked my need to make this meal was one he did in Vermont at the Long Trail Brewery. Emeril and the chef at the brewery, Chef Matt, made a whole meal with beer as its focus. I have already planned a trip to Vermont so I will answer all your questions at a later date. The dish that I fashioned my beef after was a pulled pork recipe cooked with two different Long Trail beers. (So I had planned on cooking it with pork but totally messed up at the grocery store. For some reason beef = pork in my mind. Yes I admit I am a blonde and had one of those moments.) I decided that I would use a winter beer to try and incorporate some of the flavors of the seasons.

So, back to the beef itself. Once it finished its six hour bath I pulled it out of the oven and let it rest. I used some of the liquid that the beef to cook in to make a gravy of sorts. Truthfully I was a bit worried about how it would come out. To go along with the meal I steamed some broccoli and made up some brown rice. After everything was done I cut into the meat and found that it was a bit dry, less pink than I would have hoped. I was even more worried after seeing that. I put the gravy on the meat and gave it a try. It was actually quite tasty. Going forward I would cook it for about an hour less time. The meat soaked in the flavors of the salt and the beer. It had a nice salty, yeasty, hoppy taste to it. The gravy ended up being sweet like a bbq sauce and the two tasted great together. While cooking I cracked open a Nor’easter and gave it a try. It was hoppier than I had expected. I don’t generally think of winter beers as a hoppy kind of beer so I was a bit surprised. In fact, after trying the Nor’easter I gave the IPA a try and it was LESS hoppy. I found that the Nor’easter paired quite nicely with the beef. It helped bring the hopiness level of the Nor’easter down and the flavors in the beef out. I have added the reviews below. I am also going to add the recipe too. (As I just kinda make things up as I go, it will be more of a guideline for you.) If you try it out let me know how yours turns out.

And remember: Don’t be afraid to try something new. You just might like it.

Katy Too

Beer Soaked Beef with a Sweet Beer Gravy


-Shoulder or Butt of Beef (any hunk of beef will do)

-2 or so bottles of Beer (I used Tremont Nor’easter but any ale will do)

-Salt and Pepper to taste


Pre-heat the oven at 225°. Salt and pepper the beef. Place it in a baking dish. Add enough beer to nearly cover the beef. Cook for 5 ish hours. You can use a meat thermometer if you want. The temp should be at about 155. Once the beef has come out of the over you can make the gravy.


-Cup and a half of beer from the baking dish with the beef in it

-Basil, thyme and celery salt to taste (You could use other herbs or spices based on your likes)

-Handful of cranberries (I used cranberries but any bitter/ sour fruit probably would work)

-Tablespoon or so of molasses

-Heaping tablespoon of flour (I used wheat flour but any would probably work)

-1/4 ish cup of brown sugar


Put the beer in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add the herbs and cranberries. While whisking, add molasses and flour and sugar. Allow ingredients to meld together. This whole process should take only as much time as the beef needs to rest, about 10 minutes.

Tremont Nor’easter Winter Ale

(Brewed and bottled by Shipyard Brewing Comp)

Appearance: It is a dark amber color and quite clear. I would say slightly lighter than a cola.

Aroma: There were no distinct smells that I could pick up, just a general beer smell and I have a really great nose!

Taste: There was a burst of hops and it was quite spritzy, almost biting. I wondered if perhaps it was because it was too cold and the winter flavors weren’t able to come out. I let the beer “breath” and tried it again. While some of the hop taste went away no additional flavors emerged.

Mouth feel: This beer sits neither heavy nor light on the tongue. It has just a moderate feel.

Overall: I would say it might be a nice summer beer. It can be served quite cold without diminishing any of its taste.

Tremont Freedom Trail Indian Pale Ale

(Brewed and bottled by Shipyard Brewing Comp)

Appearance: It is a light amber color and quite clear. I would say it was about the same color as ice tea.

Aroma: I could smell a slight hop aroma, which made the taste a surprise.

Taste: I was expecting there to be more of a hoppy flavor seeing it smelled more of hops then the Nor’easter. The hops ended up being quite light in hop flavor but they did seem to linger at the back of my mouth. Other than the hoppiness there wasn’t a distinct flavor.

Mouth feel: This beer sits neither heavy nor light on the tongue. It has just a moderate feel.

Overall: For me the Tremont IPA is slightly more substantial than a water beer. (Water beer = most American lagers)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Try Something New!

Sitting in a restaurant bar in Florida in 2002 I decided to become an accountant. It wasn’t something I ever considered or even thought about before. I was on a break from my waitressing shift at said restaurant bar and was trying to figure out if I would have enough money to pay bills that month. Because my mind looks at things in such a mathematical way and the fact that I am a Virgo (read: extremely organized) I had a whole spreadsheet worked out to figure out my bills. The regulars all knew that I was trying to figure out just what direction to go in my schooling at the time and one suggested, “Why not do what you’re doing now? Why not go into accounting?” After thinking about crazy things like a dolphin trainer (I get queasy looking at blood so I could never go through vet school) and a boat mechanic (I’m not really all that strong and I get sea sick) I thought that accounting seemed like an actual possibility.

I am sure by this time you are asking yourself, “Ok, I thought this was a beer blog. Why is she rambling on about being an accountant?” Well stay with me all my tangents have points.

So here I am sitting in a bar in Lovell, Maine eight years later trying various types of beers and taking notes on what I was tasting. (Once again I remind you of my Virgo-ness) I take notes on the beers I try so I can add them to my beer journal. I started the journal only about a month or two ago so that I could remember how I liked each beer so I know which I want to try again. The gentleman sitting next to me asked me what I was doing. I explained to him about my journal and he said you should make a blog. At first I completely dismissed it but he kept talking about it and then my husband, Porter, joined in and asked, “Why not?” Why was I so against writing a blog? Well I simply had never thought that anyone else may want to know what I thought about the beer I tasted. (You may not but at least I will have a digital way to keep track of my likes and dislikes.) After talking about it for awhile I decided to go with it. (Connection between the two stories coming) So much like back in 2002 I have let people in bars help decide my next move in life. (See!) The results of my 2002 decision have worked out nicely. I met my husband the first day of my internship. I am no longer an accountant but it did help propel me into my current career.(The career change is a whole different tangent.) Hopefully the results of this blog will be nice as well.

After much thinking about how my blog would be structured, I have decided to give myself a mission: At least one new beer a week. (Although it will probably be more than that; who are we kidding anyways?) I am reasonably new (only in the last 2 years really) to trying different kinds of beer. It wasn’t too long ago I was still drinking “chick” beer on occasion. (You know that fake lemonade stuff. I now find it quite repulsive.) I now try beer flights while in the bar (It allows me to try something new and those paddles are pretty fun too) and we have this really great beer store right close by in Portland so variety should be rather easy to come by. As I am a chatty one I will also discuss and give recommendations on bars. Porter and I also have just started homebrewing and that can be quite an adventure in itself.

This first review is on the bar in Lovell, Ebenezer’s. It was just named the #1 beer bar on the planet. A good number of the beers that show up on here will be from there I hope as I love this bar. (I think that is the name of a country song. Who am I kidding, I know it is.) They have 35 taps and over 800 different bottled beers. I can’t wait to check out the basement. The owner is super nice and seems to really love his job. It is always nice to feel like the owner can understand my passion. While I did try a number of new beers, I didn’t have any guidelines for my notes. According to The complete Joy of Home Brewing 3rd Edition (written by Charlie Papzian) there are a number of things to look at and think about during tasting beer: appearance, aroma and taste, which includes bitterness, sweetness, sourness and saltiness. I also thing mouth feel is important. (You know, how light or heavy it feels in your mouth.) My first beer review will be next week and continue with a new entry at least once a week, although if it is a vacation week, you should expect more. (Vacation = more opportunities to try new beers)

If you made it to the bottom of this post I thank you for sticking with me. I think that this is going to be a fun journey. I hope my reviews and comments will help get you out there and try different kinds of beer. And I would love to know your favorite beers so I can give them a try as well.

Remember: Don’t be afraid to try something new. You just might like it.

Katy Too

Ebenezer’s Pub

Lovell, Maine

Beer Selection: Crazy amazing. They have 35 beers on tap and over 800 bottles. Their beer cellar is someplace any beer geek would love to call home. They have all sorts of rare beers and a number of vintage beers.

Atmosphere: When we first walked in at 2:50 it was packed but it emptied out between lunch and dinner service. It is quite small but not in a bad way. You feel nice and cozy while sitting and enjoying the views of their many unique bottles.

Service: The bartender was amazing, so nice and really knowledgeable. She was a huge help, making suggestions and just chatting about the bar. The owner, Chris, was also very friendly. Half jokingly I asked how many times we had to come before he would let us see his basement and he said if we came back the next day he would give us a tour. (It is a bit of a haul from South Portland but we will be up again)

Food Quality: Sometimes it is rough finding a good burger but not here. My husband and I split the Ruger Burger and it was absolutely perfect. We also shared the coconut shrimp and while my husband loved them I thought they were just ok.

Price: You will end up spending a good amount here but you will feel like you got more than your money’s worth.