Snow Day Stew

This has been quite a winter for us here in eastern Massachusetts.  Plow, shovel, salt, sand.  Repeat.  Oh, and let’s figure out what a darn ice dam is while we’re at it and how to fix them.  After all that is done, wouldn’t it be nice to come inside and warm up with a big bowl of hearty beef stew?  I thought so.

I’m not a recipe follower per se, but I do get inspiration from cookbooks, cooking magazines and cooking websites.  I’m happy to report that all the resources I go to always recommend that you cook with wine you would drink, not the bottled stuff you find in the grocery store aisle.  That can hardly be called wine, in my opinion, unless you’re a fan of wine, salt, potassium sorbate (preservative),  and sodium metabisulfite (preservative).  The wine I cook with has one ingredient:  grapes.


I set forth on a snowy day a couple weeks ago armed with a bottle of  Barton and Geustier Cotes du Rhone, my trusty Dutch oven, some top-notch beef from Lees Market, and the other usual suspects:  potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, peas, salt and pepper.  After flouring and seasoning the beef and searing it, I added it to my Dutch oven with the veggie mix and some of the wine.  Some of the wine was reserved for the chef.

Two hours later, I pulled the pot from the oven and lifted the lid to see what had transformed inside.  The chunky veggies were done but not falling apart.  The beef was super tender and could be cut with a spoon.  A little bit more salt and pepper and this dish was done.

And you know what’s so great about making a big batch of stew?  (Is it possible to make a small batch in reality?)  As fate would have it, I would need some plowing assistance as my vehicle got stuck in my driveway.  That day a nice plow driver ended up with a to-go container of stew and a plastic spoon.

Becky Turner
All-Things Malt Buyer
Lees Wine and Spirits

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Distilling Versus Bottling Some Great Bourbons

We carry all of the Redemption products when they are available to us at Lees Wine and Spirits.  Like the article states, they are a good value and a great “starter” option if you’re just dabbling in the bourbon and rye arena.  Their collection includes Redemption Rye, Redemption High-Rye Bourbon, Temptation Bourbon and even a white whiskey.  We currently have a small stash of the 10 year old Rye and will definitely carry the promising 8 and 17 year olds when they become available!

From Whisky Advocate’s Fred Minnick, March 3, 2015

Non-Distiller Producers? Or American Independent Bottlers?
When it comes to sourced whiskey bottled by the so-called Non-Distiller Producers (NDPs), the whiskey is sometimes lost in the conversation of transparency.
In case you’re not glued into the American whiskey world, let me fill you in: these NDPs purchase whiskey from X distillery by the barrel and bottle it. Sometimes they slap a phony backstory on their label. Sometimes they try to hide the state of distillation on the bottle. And almost always, consumers, bloggers, and class-action lawyers will paint the Internet with “fraud” and “phony” comments about said NDPs.

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Annie Get Yer Gunn

photoEdinburgh’s Innis & Gunn Brewery has released their Porter with molasses.  Talk about dark, rich, toasty flavors in a glass!  This beer is aged in oak barrels for 39 days which really rounds out the flavor.  The sweetness from molasses is noticeable, as is the alcohol (7.3 % ABV).  If you’ve never tried a barrel-aged beer, Innis and Gunn has a full line-up from oak-aged to rum-cask to Irish whiskey barrel-aged brews.  Give them a try!

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From the Black Forest With Love

photoRothaus Pils is a brew from Germany’s Black Forest.  This Pilsner is exactly what my taste buds recall from when I visited Germany in 2004.  Light straw in color, easy drinking, effervescent and super-clear, Rothaus Pils is a crowd-pleaser.  Sweet malt notes are up-front and finishes with a light bitter finish.  Real light.  It’s old school label is a nod back in time and is eye-catching.  If you are looking to stray from the micro-brew world, give this beer a try.

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Larceny Bourbon Linked to Pappy


Larceny Very Special Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

According to legend, John E. Fitzgerald founded a distillery along the banks of the Kentucky River shortly after the Civil War ended. Fitzgerald began distilling bourbon and selling it to passengers aboard the trains and steamships that passed through town. Shortly thereafter, Fitzgerald sold his brand “” Old Fitzgerald Bourbon “” to Julian P. “Pappy” Van Winkle for $10,000, a small fortune at the time. Pappy moved production of Old Fitz to his distillery, where it became one of the most famous bourbons in the world.

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The Super Bowl’s Riskiest Ad

Is Budweiser laughing with or at Millennials?

In November, The Wall Street Journal published “Bud Crowded Out By Craft Beer Craze,” reporting that among beer drinkers 27 and younger, just 44 percent had tried Budweiser beer. Among all drinkers, “Budweiser volumes have declined in the U.S. for 25 years, from its nearly 50-million-barrel peak in 1988 to 16 million barrels last year,” the article noted. “The company has decided that persuading 21-to-27-year-olds to grab a Bud is the best chance to stop the free-fall. After years of developing advertising and marketing that appeals to all ages, AB InBev plans to concentrate future Budweiser promotions exclusively on that age bracket.”

But watching Budweiser’s Super Bowl commercials on Sunday, I saw an advertisement far more likely to appeal to my grandfather or father than a typical person of my generation (I’m 35), and even less likely to appeal to Millennials.

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Blue Moon Catches the Hop Craze!

DENVER, Jan. 22, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — After searching through 150 varieties to find the perfect hop for its latest brew, Blue Moon Brewing Company is excited to unveil its own twist on an IPA: Blue Moon White IPA. Ringing in 20 years as a brewery, they’re unveiling Blue Moon White IPA by challenging consumers to go on a search of their own to find the new beer.

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How IPA Conquered the World

The Economist explains How India pale ale conquered the world

May 13th 2014, 23:50 by S.W.

INDIA pale ale (IPA) had a good claim to be the first global beer, before lager took a grip on Anchor-IPA-bottle-150pxthe world’s tipplers. Now IPA, an amber, hop-laden brew, high in alcohol, is dogfish-head-90-minute-iparegaining its global footprint. Arguments rage about the origins and history of IPA. Britain’s territories on the Indian subcontinent were generally too hot for brewing. So a couple of hundred years ago, to keep army officers and officials of the East India Company away from the fearsome local firewater, beer was exported from Britain to take its place. Whether a beer already existed that had the characteristics of IPA or whether it was developed for the purpose is a matter of heated debate among beer historians. What is clear is that hops, which act as a preservative as well as a flavouring, combined with a hefty dose of alcohol for added robustness, ensured that the beer survived the long sea journey to India. Indeed, the months jiggling in a barrel onboard seemed only to improve the flavour. The style caught on at home, as the brew seeped onto the domestic market.

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Bitter vs. Hoppy

IMG_3636Looking for an explanation of hops versus bitterness in a beer?  Sierra Nevada Brewery breaks it down for us:

“There is a general misconception regarding the bitterness of beer versus how hoppy a beer tastes. A beer’s IBU number is based on a measurement of how much bitter hop acid is in the packaged beer. Hoppiness on the other hand, is a relative thing and can’t be put into numbers. If both bitterness and hoppiness come from adding hops to beer, how can bitterness and hoppiness be disconnected?
Bitterness comes from adding hops to the kettle. There, the boiling process causes a chemical change in the hops (isomerization) which allows the resinous acids to mix with the liquid without separating out. Adding hops to the kettle after the boiling has stopped or adding hops into the fermenter (such as in dry hopping or our hop torpedo process) allows hop oils to mix with the beer—the source of most of the hop flavor and aroma—without adding bitterness. A beer can be hoppy but not bitter, and vice versa, but looking only at IBU doesn’t give a good measure of the hop flavor in a finished beer.”

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Oh, for Peat’s Sake

Not all single malts from Islay are for peat freaks

The subtle lure of Bruichladdich


Islay as seen from the gates of the Bruichladdich distillery

Islay as seen from the gates of the Bruichladdich distillery

Even in the driving rain, the Isle of Islay is a heart-stoppingly beautiful spot. High in the hills behind the Bruichladdich distillery, there are sweeping views east across Loch Indaal, and I fancied I could just about pinpoint Bowmore distillery across the foaming grey waters. The wind was gusting, the sheep were bleating, the geese were honking: it was wild, magnificent and dramatic.

The lure of Bruichladdich was too strong, however, and moments later I was in the warmth of the distillery shop itself, getting a dram of the Laddie Valinch, a limited edition release available only in the shop. The 22-year-old, matured in a former bourbon cask for 18 years and then a former sherry cask for four, was invigorating. It was 50.7 per cent and I prudently added water.

It was a delicious dram, fruity and sweet with stacks of colour and plenty of leather, chocolate, raisins, spice and — I don’t know — candied orange peel maybe. One thing it wasn’t, though, was peaty. As we all know, Islay malts are peaty. You know, like Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg.

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