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Kickback’s Throws a Dinner Party with Cigar City & St. Somewhere

The word “epic” gets tossed around a lot these days. It has
become par to of the popular vernacular especially among the younger
generation. It suggests something that is very imposing or impressive,
something that surpasses the ordinary. With this in mind, it is safe to say
that the Beer Dinners held periodically at Kickback’s Gastropub in
Riverside/Avondale are epic.

The most recent culinary and zymological wonder took place
Monday, August 29, starting at 6:30. The beer pairings for that night were 38
beers from both Cigar City Brewing in Tampa and St. Somewhere Brewing Company
in Tarpon Springs. Both are legendary breweries in their own rights, each with
their own style and flair. Cigar City is known for their superb Jai Alai IPA
with its over-the-top hoppiness, attained through the use of six different
types of hops, and its upright malt backbone that balances the hops to create a
remarkable – and highly awarded – IPA. St. Somewhere, on the other hand, is an
acolyte of the Belgian style of brewing, producing exceptional saisons and
Belgian-style ales with aroma and taste profiles that keep their groupies
coming back for more.

The beers were paired with an eight course meal created
especially for the beers presented. This included several courses prepared by
guest chefs who are just as passionate about beer as they are about food.
Several items were finished with sauces by local Jacksonville sauce producer
Bander’s Butt Sauce.

As the evening began, the heat outside made the cool, dark
environs of Kickback’s even more appealing than normal. Steve Flores, the
wizard behind these magical dinners and owner of Kickback’s, did his best to
control the sweating, excited crowds filing in, he and his seasoned staff
herding guests to their assigned seats. The tables were set with three tasting
glasses per setting along with a placemat that detailed the night’s offerings.

A virtual Who’s Who of the Jacksonville beer Preferiti were in attendance in addition to
luminary guests from further lands. An intrepid table even trekked down from
Athens, GA to enjoy the beer and food. Folks like Steve Rushe of BeerJunto.com,
Scott Hall, one of the owners of Tallahassee’s Fermentation Lounge, David Rigdon
from Team Hopheads, Eric Luman owner of Green Room Brewing, and Carolyn Graham
from Brown Distributers (and one of the masterminds behind the dinner) gathered
to drink, eat, laugh and learn about the dizzying number of brews offered.

And, of course, the
most honored of guest were the brewers and representatives from Cigar City and
St. Somewhere. Throughout the evening the brewers took turns talking about
their beer offerings and providing interesting insights into the processes that
went into making them. Joey Redner is the man behind Cigar City. As a Tampa
native Joey is passionate about beer, he has owned a bar and sold beer at a
number of levels. Bob Sylvester is the owner and brewer for St. Somewhere
Brewery, and is dedicated to brewing beers in the Belgian style using authentic
ingredients and traditional open-fermentation methods.

Speaking of beer,
there were so many it was difficult to keep notes on them all, however I did
manage to jot a few things down.

The reception beer
was the Cigar City flagship Jai Alai IPA a very hops forward beer that has set
a high standard for American IPAs. The second reception beer was Cigar City
Xenu Honey Cream Ale. For those of you unfamiliar with the teachings of L. Ron
Hubbard, founder of Scientology, Xenu is sort of the Scientology devil. And,
since Scientology is based near the Tampa area, Xenu Honey Cream Ale is a sly
nod to Scientologists everywhere.

The first food
course to arrive was beef tenderloins sliced then and wrapped around cucumber,
sweet red pepper, carrots, and garnished with light horseradish, served on a
bed of lettuce. With the appetizer, Cigar City El Lector – named for the men,
lectors, who read to the Tampa area cigar rollers before the days of radio.
Also served were Cigar City Minaret ESB and Cigar City Florida Cracker White
Ale.

Between courses two
beers were typically served. Between courses one and two were two exceptional
saisons from St. Somewhere. Saison Athene was the first pour with wonderful
funk and spice flavors just as a good saison should have. But, it was the
second saison to be poured that really caught my attention. It was a twist on
the same beer but this time the Saison Athene was dry hopped with whole cone
Citra hops. The hops lent an herbaceous aroma and flavor to the already complex
saison and really amped up the flavor profile. This was one of my favorite
beers of the night.

Course two arrived
and for a few moments had me perplexed. I had never heard of anything called
tempeh. I n research for this article, I learned that it is a traditional soy product originally from
Indonesia employing a controlled fermentation process that binds
soybeans into a cake form. The patty was a bit dry for me, but had an
interesting texture and pleasant, spicy, nutty flavor that was accented by Jai
Alai vinaigrette. The beers paired with this dish were Cigar City Tocobaga Red,
named for the first inhabitants of the Tampa area, Cigar City Jai Alai Cedar
Aged IPA – Humidor Series, and Cigar City Jai Alai IPA – White Oak. Both the
cedar aged and white oak aged versions of the Jai Alai IPA lent new dimension
to the beer opening characteristics that go unnoticed in the pure version.

Intermezzo number
two offered a vertical tasting of Cigar City Bolita Brown Double Nut Brown Ale,
edition 2009 and 2010. The “bolita” – Spanish for little ball – referred to in
the name of these brews is a reference to a lottery-like game of chance that
was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
within the Cuban and Hispanic communities of Florida. Essentially it was a scam
and became synonymous with a cheat. But, the beers that bear the name are
anything but cheats. Both displayed considerable character and richness, with
the older version truly opening to thick, rich, malty flavors.

Pork loin with
smoky cumin rub and stuffed with granny smith apple chutney and smoked gouda
served atop grilled asparagus spears and drizzled with Mama’s Southern Mustard
Sauce from Bander’s Butt Sauce came as the third course. This decadent dish was
served with the Cigar City/St. Somewhere colaborative brew Vuja De a sour
American Wild Ale with a pronounced tart character. It was also paired with Cigar
City Sea Bass – affectionately named for former Cigar City employee, Sebastian
– a refreshing saison and St. Somewhere Pay Du Soliel another stellar saison
from the Belgian-minded brewery.

The next between
courses pair pitted two Cigar City collaborations with Hill Farmstead of Vermont and Grassroots Brewing of Denmark, Either and Or against each other
with the winners being the drinkers. Both brews are dark, thick, chewy black
IPA brews that really play the hops up, but cut the bitterness with Thai Thai honey.

The next course
was prepared by Chef Michelle Ugarte of the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island’s
Salt Restaurant. Michelle has become something of a “resident guest chef” in
that she often prepares at least one dish for Kickbacks’ beer dinners. This
dinner saw her dish shine and was easily the favorite of everyone. The dish was
a preparation of seven pepper braised short rib spring rolls with salt-roasted
peach-harissa sauce and pickled red onion. This outstanding dish was served
with Cigar City Hillsborough River Irish Dry Stout, Cigar City Jose Marti India
Porter, and Cigar City Puppy’s Breath Porter.

After this things
began to get fuzzy and run together. But, one of the highlights was St.
Somewhere owner Bob Sylvester jumping on stage and giving a beatnik-poet diatribe about beers and yeasts to
the smooth sounds of the evening’s house band.

Towards the end of the night Chef Paul Crump presented
dessert, chocolate cheesecake with Grand Marnier biscotti crust and Chantilly
cream. This rich dessert was paired with Cigar City Tiramisu Sweet Stout, Cigar
City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale – Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, and Cigar City Good
gourd Imperial Pumpkin Ale.

In the end many attendees just couldn’t hang with the
aggressive number of beers. But, for those of us who stuck it out to the end,
we were rewarded with an evening of lasting memories and wonderful food and
beers.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Beer, Beer Dinner, Restaurant

 

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It’s the Season for Saison

Week 18 (2011): Odonata Saison Ale

Image by the__photographer via Flickr

Belgium, the name inspires nostalgia in me. It was just a few short months ago that my feet were on the very soil of that most magical of countries. Though the entire time I was there it was raining, misting, or both I can safely say that I have fallen for the charms of this country nestled between France, The Netherlands, and Germany. Its cities are charming, its people are friendly, and its beer is heavenly. And saison ranks as my favorite style of beer coming from that misty nation.

Six months ago you may have been hard-pressed to find a good saison beer anywhere other than a specialty beer store. Indeed, you may have had a hard time even telling your friends what it is you are looking for. When I speak of saisons to many casual beer drinkers they have little idea of what I am talking about. Once considered an endangered beer style, saisons are once again growing in popularity. Their following stems from a growing awareness that there are other types of beer than the American lagers churned out by the big boys of the brewing industry. As people have branched out and tasted new styles of beer they have begun to understand that there is a whole world of flavors to be tried.

Oddly enough, though, an American behemoth brewer may have been responsible for the growing popularity of Belgian and Belgian-style beers. In 1995 Coors Brewing Company began marketing a Belgian-style beer originally called Bellyslide Belgian White. Brewed at Coors Field’s onsite brewing facility Sandlot Brewery by Keith Villa, the refreshing golden-orange hued brew, flavored with orange peel and coriander became a huge hit. Coors quickly noticed, changed the name of the beer to Blue Moon, set up a subsidiary called the Blue Moon Brewing Company, and began the mainstreaming of Belgian-style beer.

America took notice and realized weak, watery lagers are most definitely not the only style of beer they like. Thus began the slow integration of Belgian styles into the American beer consciousness. Still, 16 years after the introduction of a mainstream Belgian-style beer, Americans know shockingly little about the true Belgian beer styles. Saisons, in particular, are a mystery to the average beer drinker. And that is a real pity, because of all the styles produced by Belgium, saisons may be the most interesting. The history of them certainly is.

Brewed in the southern, French-speaking region of Belgium called Wallonia, saisons – the French word for seasons — were originally intended as refreshing, restorative beers to be served to the field hands working the farms. The field hands were entitled by law to as much as five liters per day due to the lack of potable water in Europe. The beers were brewed by farmers and no two were alike, thus they became known as “farmhouse ales.” Recipes were handed down from father to son and became tradition. These ales were brewed in the late winter and early spring in order to remain fresh for the summer season.

Just like many Belgian beers, saisons could have any number of ingredients from candi sugar to wild honey. The style maintains a hoppier profile than most Belgian beers due to the higher hops content added as preservatives but still remain refreshing and thirst-quenching due to lower alcohol content, originally between 3% and 5%. Today’s saisons tend to have higher alcohol content generally in the 6% to 9% range.

The distinctive flavors of saisons are a result of the ingredients the brewer used but is also heavily influenced by the wild strains of yeast used. These wild yeast strains add a complexity to the beer approaching, if not exceeding that of fine wine. The yeast, along with pilsner malt, lends the beer a dryness and crispness reminiscent of Champaign. Saisons are often described as fruity and spicy since the addition of citrus zest, coriander, and ginger is common during brewing.

As a style, saisons are making a huge comeback. American craft brewers are embracing this refreshing style and producing it for summer consumption more and more. Local brewers are certainly kicking up production of Belgian styles. Intuition Ale Works has three excellent examples of Belgian-style beers with a Golden Spiral, a rich golden ale; Dubble Helix, a dark satisfying dubble; and Shapeshifter, a spicy, zesty saison with hints of orange. If this is an indication that American beer tastes are turning more Belgian, I am one happy camper.

What I Have Been Drinking Lately

Ommegang Hennepin Farmhouse Saison

Ommegang is an American craft beer producer from Cooperstown, NY. The brew is golden and lovely when it pours and gives off the traditionally funky scent of a good farmhouse ale. The taste is well-balanced nectar of citrus and ginger that is lively on the palate and crisp at the finish. This beer is the perfect companion to barbeque fare as well as spicy foods.

Saisan D’erpe Mere

Brewed by KleinBrouwerij De Glazen Toren in Belgium, this excellent example of a saison pours bright straw color. The nose, while funky as a saison should be, also hints at lemon and spices. The mouth-feel is thin with peppery notes and citrusy front. This brew is very much worth your effort to find and drink on a hot summer day while sitting on the porch swing.

Dogfish Head Raison D’etre

Known for their excellent, if eccentric brews, Dogfish Head has produced this straight-forward Belgian-style strong ale. The beer pours into the glass a rich, dark amber. Notes of dark fruits, raisins, plum, and dark cherries reach your nose along with moderate yeastiness and strong alcohol scents. The taste is malty with raisins and figs. The mouth-feel is very thick and rich.

The traditions and styles of Belgian brewing are fascinating and delicious. The more you delve into the wonders that this small nation have to offer the more enthralled you will be. Prepare yourself for the coming Belgian and Belgian-style beers you will soon see on shelves near you. There are many more styles to come.

Until next time.

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Beer, Beer Styles

 

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Sam Adams new seasonal beers perfect for hot months ahead | jacksonville.com

Samuel Adams (beer)

Image via Wikipedia

The guys over at Amber Waves just posted the blog entry linked below about the new Sam Adams Summer Styles 12-pack coming to Jacksonville stores in the next week or so. The 12-pack comes with a variety of great beers including a Saison called Rustic Saison and a Kölsch named East-West Kölsch.

I have tried the Saison myself and mentioned it in a previous blog post here (see what I had to say below the link). It is, indeed, a beer worth drinking. I look forward to getting ahold of the Kölsch . When I do, I will certainly report back my thoughts.

Summer is such a great time for tasty beers!

Read the entire Amber Waves post here:

Sam Adams new seasonal beers perfect for hot months ahead | jacksonville.com.

Samuel Adams Rustic Saison

Straw yellow with a slight reddish tint, this beer forms a thin head which dissipates quickly but still leaves nice lacing on the glass. Spice and wheat strike you first when you sniff this beer and the flavor follows suit. There is a bitter after-taste to this brew, but that is certainly not a deterent.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2011 in Beer, Beer News, Beer Styles

 

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Something New from Sierra Nevada — Belgian Style Ales

Sometimes the planets align and something wonderful happens. Well, my dear friends, those planets justlined up and something wonderful did indeed happen. Just a few weeks ago one of my favorite breweries introduced a new line of my favorite style of brews — Belgian Ales.

In conjunction with Cistercian Abbey of New Clairvaux, Sierra Nevada is producing a series of three Belgian style ales to benefit the monks’ eforts to rebuild a 12th century, early-gothic Cistercian chapter house a few miles north of Sierra Nevada’s home in Chico. The medieval chapterhouse—Santa Maria de Ovila—was begun in 1190, near the village of Trillo, Spain. The chapterhouse was shipped from Spain, piece-by-piece, to California by William Radolph Herst. Herst never got around to putting it back together, though.  So, in 1994, the monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux, began the arduous task of putting the building back together stone-by-stone.

The Ovial brews that will be made are a dubbel, a saison, and a quad. Each will be brewed using the traditional methods and ingredients. And, as is expected from Sierra Nevada, you can be sure that they will be brewed using the highest quality ingredients.

The first brew, Ovial Abbey Dubbel shipped last month, the saison should be available in June, and the quad for Christmas.

You can learn more about these exciting beers at the website Sierra Nevada built specifically for them.

http://www.ovila.com/#/home

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Beer News, Beer Styles, Belgian, Imports

 

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