Bread done right

Was it destiny? Amongst the detritus and woe of Reject Shop produce shone a beacon of hope, a tribute from the Gods, a mythical triple-drop from a faulty vending machine: Larry the Cable Guy’s Beer Bread. My double-take was so profound, so aggressive, my body produced an actual WHIPTSCHHHH sound people from miles around swear they heard. “What is this, before mine eyes?” I cried. “Providence? The majesty of life in all its terrible beauty?” My shaking hands clutched at the box, the cardboard yielding to my tightening grip. A deep yearning hollowness began to fill as my eyes drank in the beer bread’s glory, my life becoming whole.

Not pictured: built in gun rack

Not pictured: built in gun rack

Ahem.

Needless to say, finding ol’ Larry’s Beer Bread was an exciting moment filled with curiosity and trepidation. My love of weird American food tied with my passion for beer made this one a bit of a no-brainer, going on to spark a fairly epic night of chilli and booze. For those who don’t know (who am I kidding, everyone knows!) Larry the Cable Guy is a comedian who wear a trucker hat and presumably hunts squirrels with assault rifles. He’s spawned a line of merch and a whole array of horrifying/awesome packaged food, and also started the Git R’ Done Foundation which raises money for various things.

The concept behind this particular beer bread is simple: put bread mix in bowl, add beer, stir, slather on butter, bake. [Add links here to homemade beer bread recipes]. Aw yiss. The beer chosen was a big-assed can of Budějovický Budvar more out of convenience’s sake than any kind of gastronomical flavour matching. As the only liquid component of the batter I was a little anxious to see how it all combined, but even with the froth it seemed to work well (lumps are encouraged apparently). The butter component of the “recipe” is weird as you’re asked to pour melted butter over the batter before you throw it in the oven. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that before, but that’s America for you I suppose. Going into the oven a some-what unappealing bleached-white colour (covered in somewhat appealing melted-butter yellow) I started having doubts about the whole thing. Oh how wrong I was. The first thing I noticed pulling the loaf out was its golden crust, and the fact it even rose a little. Pouring the butter over top was genius. How Larry the Cable Guy hasn’t won a Nobel Prize is beyond me. The butter worked its way around every edge of the baking loaf and somehow the result wasn’t greasy at all.

Nothing wrong with this image whatsoever

Nothing wrong with this image whatsoever

Meanwhile, the chilli bubbled away menacingly. It may have even had a few choice words to say about my masculinity. I totally didn’t cry. The chilli itself was slowcooked over approximately 15 weeks and infused with a bottle of oh-so-tasty Boston Brewery Black Chocolate Stout to add further richness to the hellish, meaty goodness.

Beef and beer. 'Nuff said.

Beef and beer. ‘Nuff said.

Stouty beef.

Stouty beef.

The Lads arrived and I cracked a growler of Little Creatures new IPA I bought from The International Beer Shop. Damn son, what a tasty brew. Even with his weak-willed palate The Skinny exalted the IPA’s praises. Although it goes against my previous discoveries about beer and chilli matching, the beer went incredibly well with the night’s spicy servings. As the chilli wasn’t so colon shredding as the dreaded Runamuck Dare Devil hot dog, the not overly hoppy flavour of the IPA came through nicely while retaining its complexity. I dare-say it could possibly work well as a session beer.

I have the best milkman.

I have the best milkman.

The beer bread, however, reared it’s crusty head and stole the show. Although a little bit flour-y on top and not particularly easy on the eye, the little beer bread that could blew everyone away. The butterised crust had a slight crunch while the bread itself was dense and tasty. It’s hard to say what effect the Budvar actually had, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Add chilli to that bad boy and you hit a whole new level of ermergerdness. Hashtag poogasm.

Loaf'd.

Loaf’d.

So to you, Larry the Cable Guy and the Git R’ Done foundation I raise a glass your dedication to putting beer in everything. Next: beer soufflé!

Beer Spiders: A Childhood Wasted

I’m of the opinion that everything is delicious until you try it, unless of course the ingredients themselves are inherently gross. There’s no reason why vegemite on crumpets or pikelets won’t be fantastic, nor chocolate covered pretzels – just see how good Americans are at combining salty/sweet things. As we all know beer goes great with food either as an accompaniment or an ingredient, so I’m not here to talk about something as mundane as beer battered fish or Guinness and beef pie. If memory serves me right, sensing that children weren’t developing Type-2 diabetes quickly enough someone decided it would be a good idea to introduce ice cream to Coke, changing EVERYTHING. I’m not sure when it happened, but an idea popped in my head that could not be banished.

Beer Spider. Oh yes.

Diabeetus

Diabeetus

I certainly did not come up with this idea and indeed I sought inspiration and advice on how not to turn this already abomination into a heinous crime against humanity. The basic idea is to use dark, full-flavoured stouts or porters – brewed with chocolate for extra effect – which have the closest resemblance to your favourite cola drink, and the more alcohol the merrier. They typically have a thick foamy head and their richness of flavour can break through the milkiness of ice-cream. The ice-cream used in these experiments was Coles Madagascan Vanilla Bean and Coles Rum Raisin, because that particular supermarket was closest I guess?

The first sacrifice in the name of dessert and science (sure, why not) was the Renaissance Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, a fantastic beer by its own right. Velvety, nutty and rich, it fits the prerequisites for a beer spider and my ideal wife. After a luxurious dinner made by Eats Meets West and a triply luxurious grasshopper pie we decided to take the plunge with the beer spider. Big mistake. There are few things richer or more bloat-worthy than a beer spider. I used the vanilla ice-cream for this one and when poured it develops that characteristic weird bubbly foam tradition spiders make. The taste? Raise an eyebrow, look up a little bit and purse your lips while saying “not bad” in a surprised way – this will be your reaction. The beer’s texture becomes creamier and the bitterness is cut way back, but the ice-cream doesn’t overpower the experience. It is great to spoon out as you go though. Needless to say I felt incredibly sick afterwards.

Cue American Beauty soundtrack and narration from creepy kid with video camera

Cue American Beauty soundtrack and narration from creepy kid with video camera

If you're currently salivating, don't worry, it's a natural reaction.

If you’re currently salivating, don’t worry, it’s a natural reaction.

The best stout of the lot came next (on another day because I like being alive) in the form of Anderson Valley’s Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout with the vanilla ice-cream. Here’s where I noticed a downside to the spider (I know I was shocked too): it robs the beer of complexity and makes it a bit beige. Once again this beer spider was creamy and incredibly rich, perhaps slightly better than the Renaissance stout, but there really isn’t much else more to say about it. Great beer though, on its own the stout has this great chocolate quality that does amazing things to your tongue. Let’s leave it there before things get awkward.

Fairly certain that face is the last thing you see before you die.

Fairly certain that face is the last thing you see before you die.

Lastly was the Founders Brewing Breakfast Stout (Double Chocolate, Coffee, Oatmeal Stout), yet another amazing beer that I sullied with ice-cream. Rum Raisin was the nominated ice-cream this time around, a fairly mediocre one at that, but for some reason it still worked. The Rum Raisin is slightly sweeter than the vanilla, which added a little something extra to the flavour. Again, the stout’s flavour was subdued but the sweetness of the ice-cream made a nice counterpoint to the beer’s bitterness. I’m not saying you should, but you totally should have this for breakfast.

All in all this was a fun experiment, and against all odd I’m still alive. Beer spiders are not as silly as they sound, nor as awful, and I believe truly deserve a spot on the menu of some bespoke bar that serves beers in paper bags and cocktail in jam jars.

A Beer Fit For A King (Who Died On A Toilet)

Well, at least you tried

Well, at least you tried

I’m rarely disappointed with craft beer, or brewers willing to experiment. I don’t believe beers has to be made a certain way and I’m completely fine with throwing in things like spices, chocolate, ham flavour or fruit, if only to explore the boundaries and possibilities or beer making. Breweries such as Rogue in the US cast their net far and wide when it comes to producing variety in their range (how great does this Chipotle Ale look?) like little alcoholic Willy Wonka factories. Last year they brought out the Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale, a combination of most of my favourite things, which was followed up this year with the Voodoo Doughnut Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Ale.  The beer is a nod to a certain deep fried snack with these ingredients was favoured by Elvis, which I can totally get behind. The theory is great, but in practice the Voodoo left a lot to be desired.

Imagine all the people

Imagine drinking these.

Remember those chalky banana lollies you’d buy as a kid? Remember that synthetic “banana” taste that wasn’t really anything you’d actually experience in nature, but left a profound impact on your taste-buds and psyche for years to come? One sip of the Voodoo brought it all rushing back. High expectations and crushing disappointment. I wasn’t expecting the artificial, chemical taste at all, nor for it to come across so strongly. There’s plenty of beers out there that achieve the banana taste seemingly by accident, so it’s strange to see how the artificial flavour was pushed so strongly in this beer. There was a hint of the chocolate there, but the lack of bitterness (25IBU, sitting around the range of a pilsner or English ale) and body in the ale left it without any punch. Peanut butter? While a fellow taster had hints of it I couldn’t pick it. The asking price for this one is a tad on the ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME scale of things, which adds another blow to what was an unsatisfying brew.

To cheer everyone up, here’s a video recipe of The King’s delicacy

The Malted Handshake

Batman and Superman. Batman and Robin. Batman vs Judge Dredd. Batman and Future Batman. I’m assuming the last one exists. All great examples of “wouldn’t it be great if…?” thinking with one thing in common: collaboration. And tights. Either as a team or bitter rivals, the results are usually pure fanboy/girl joy – the Alien vs Predator movies notwithstanding. When commercial craft brewers get together for a chat over some beers it seems one thing inevitably leads to another and nine months later a new hybrid brew-baby is born. No need to get into specifics, we all did sex-ed in school right? I was inspired by this post by Girl + Beer to try out a few collaboration beers involving Australian breweries.

Collaborators collaboratin'

Collaborators collaboratin’

Given the selections I made it made sense for the Mountain Goat (Vic)/Brooklyn Brewery (US) Cross Breed Hopfweizenbock to take first drinking honours as the lightest. of the trio. “Lightest” is a relative term in this case being a bock and sitting at a gullet warming 6.5% ABV, not forgetting it’s also a wheat beer. Made in Australia, the Mountain Goat brewers used the grains and yeast used Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyner Weiss, then piling in Tasmanian Galaxy hops to ratchet up the bitterness. As a result the initial aroma has that typical hopped pale ale fruity aroma and cloudy amber appearance in the glass. Anyone whose palate has been torched by overconsumption of German wheat beers (looking at you Weihenstephan) will notice the Hopfweizenbock has a touch more character than your typical hefe, but is still smooth as butter to drink.

Not pictured: Folk-rock band The Mountain Goats - sorry to disappoint.

Not pictured: Folk-rock band The Mountain Goats – sorry to disappoint.

Speaking of Weihenstephan, the second taster is the Temple Brewery (Vic)/Weihenstephan Unifikator Weizenbock again brewed here in Australia. From what I can gather the beer uses Weihenstephan’s own yeast strain (as does the previous Hopfweizenbock) and had input from their Braumeister Frank Peifer plus a bunch of dark German malts, which were then brewed in Australia by Temple Brewing. The result is surprising, and a little disappointing. I’ll admit I’m a fairly shit beer pourer, but sure I can’t have stuffed it up so bad that there was no head! This thing should have been foamy to match the absolute decadence of the beer itself, instead it’s as dead as Batman’s parents. Past the weak carbonation the Unifikator has a golden syrup colour and a fairly subtle fruity aroma, but it’s the flavour that really smacks you in the face. There’s a big cherry influence with a bit of nutty bitterness, definitely sitting on the sweet side of the scale. It would be nice with a big meaty meal, but on its own the whole thing becomes cloying.

Sounds like a Kraftwerk song, isn't.

Sounds like a Kraftwerk song, isn’t.

As recommended by Girl + Beer the final beer is a cracker and not for the faint of heart. Sitting at 14.6% ABV the Moon Dog (Vic)/Kissmeyer Brewing (Denmark) Nordic Saddle Buffer Barrlelly Wine is best not thought of as a beer, or drunk like one for that matter. Apparently the Dutch master brewer Anders Kissmeyer is a bloke who smokes pipes and while making completely out-there beer, so he’s alright in my book. Apart from dumping a whole pile of different malts into this one, the kicker is the “rather long time” the beer spent aging in ex-shiraz and pinot barrels before bottling. I’m really not quite sure what difference this made to the Saddle Buffer, but if I was to hazard a guess I’d say it contributed to the liqueur-esque quality of the beer. It’s murky as hell with little head and smells a lot like caramel. The hop bitterness is subdued and according to the bottle sits at 46 IBU (International Bitterness Units), which was confusing the hell out of me; drinking it is like one of those cartoon fights where all you see in a cloud with punching sounds coming out such is its complexity. It’s very cool to see ridiculously adventurous beers coming out of Australia like this coming out of Australia – even if we needed a little help from the Danes.

Barrelly Wine ... oh I get it.

Barrelly Wine … oh I get it.

With all this collaboration talk, we might as well finish this with the worst collaboration of all time. Enjoy.

The Devil (Dog) and Me

While reading this it is advised to play the video below, and if you’re in a busy office make sure you have it loud as possible because everyone appreciates that.

Without resorting to too many completely unfounded stereotypes it seems that we men have an attraction to things that will inevitably cause us pain. Hell, just doing painful things for the sake of it seems part and parcel to the “owning a wang” experience. So when I heard a tip-off from The Skinny Perth that Run Amuk Hotdogs Unleashed in South Fremantle has a colon melting dawg on the menu I knew instantly what had to be done. With a week to prepare (and sleepless nights spent in anticipation) a bit of research was required. Sure, there’s nothing better than knocking back a frosty lager with a greasy vindaloo, but what’s the optimum chilli and beer match? Is lager really the best match, or have we once again been deceived by the all-powerful and morally corrupt Lager Lobby (who eat babies I swear)? Days went by as I rifled through ancient tomes and manuscripts, my mind slipping into the depths of madness as the answers eluded me. Stacks upon stacks of books towered above in my relentless search, paranoia now deeply entrenched as I start to suspect conspiracy and plots abound as I start to question my sanity.

Is there an answer?

What secrets are the Illuminati hiding?*

Is that librarian paying a little too much attention?

Is the Library of Tax Laws the best place to be looking for this?

Then a voice came unbidden in my head and whispered “Google that bitch.” As it turns out Craftbeer.com has a few words on the subject worth checking out. The basic ideas are that high alcohol content makes you more vulnerable to heat, and sweeter malty beers have a soothing effect on the palate. Therefore: chilli and wine = having a bad time.

With this knowledge I went out at purchased these bad boys from The International Beer Shop in West Leederville. It was not until later that I noticed the huge mistake I made. More on that later. Armed to the teeth with malty brown ales and IPAs, it was time to take on the Run Amuk Dare Devil dog.

THE CHALLENEGERS: Bone Yard Grapefruit IPA, Nogne O Citrus Hystrix IPA, Nail Ale Australian Pale Ale, Cigar City Brewing Maduro Brown Ale.

THE CHALLENEGERS: Bone Yard Grapefruit IPA, Nogne O Citrus Hystrix IPA, Nail Ale Australian Pale Ale, Cigar City Brewing Maduro Brown Ale.

Run Amuk is a damn cool little joint overflowing with kitch and energy from the bus-seat booths and Where’s Wally tables, to the friendly staff and fun approach to food and dining. Does the word “dining” apply to messily scarfing down meat in buns? Meh. Another point in their favour is the BYO policy (in that they have one), which meant this beer experiment could go public. The Skinny Perth, a friend and I all ordered Dare Devils ($14), which consist of a tasty bratwurst, caramelised onions, aged cheder, sour cream, two kinds of chilli sauce, spinach (i.e. my greens for the night) and fresh green chillies on top. The Foodie Hub went for the Chilli Dog and the Tomfoolery, neither particularly “hot” hot dogs, on account of his wanting to go bike riding in the morning, which in retrospect was perhaps the wisest decision ever made by humankind. [On a side note, how awesome are those guitar solos right now?] To prepare for the Devil Dog the first beer to go down was the Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale as a kind of tongue-coater to hopefully help deal with the heat. When poured the appearance is murky and muddy with a creamy head, the aroma being intensely nutty. In hindsight, the Maduro would have been the best pick to take on the Devil Dog with; it has a reasonable alcohol level of 5.5% and a sweet maltiness perfect for combatting chilli. Oh well.

And they're like "It's better that yours"

Maduro Brown Ale, your bubbles bring the boys to the yard

Here’s where I made my mistake. On advice I picked out a Nøgne Ø Citrus Hystrix IPA to quench the unholy fires about to assault my body. Brewed from malt (as all Nøgne Ø are made) with the addition of rye, oats, kaffir lime and tangerine juice it seemed like another perfect chilli matching beer. The dogs arrive and we smash right into them, the red sauce glaring at us with evil intent as we take our first bite. YES. This isn’t underwhelming “restaurant hot,” aiming to appease a wide market, this dog is designed for PAIN. My lips instantly start to sting and my tongue starts to burn as the sauce and chillies start to wash over. First sip of the Hystrix – nothing’s happening. The flavour is bold and is cutting through a bit of the delicious Dare Devil dog flavour with a nice bitter nuttiness and sight tang of citrus, but the heat remains. Tunnel vision starts to set in about halfway through the dog and still the beer does nothing. I look at the bottle and notice the alcohol content: 7.5%. Oh dear. Rookie error right there. The chilli now sits at that threshold between painful and inedible, and oh-so delicious to a chilli-lover such as myself. My co-diners were also in a kind of stunned silence as we pushed through the pain to the bemused looks of the Run Amuk staff and still THE DAMN BEER DOES NOTHING.

YOU WERE MEANT TO BE THE BEST OF US

The Devil Dog in all its glory, and the beers which did nothing but laugh at my suffering.

Then it ends. Last vestiges of chilli sauce licked from fingers and left with a lingering, satisfying burn, all that’s left is contemplation and ice-cream. We order a Knickerbocker Glory to finish things off (vanilla ice cream, strawberry jelly, chocolate sauce, nuts and fresh cream with mini M&M’s, flake chocolate and a cherry on top) and I discover something amazing. Hystrix is a perfect match for ice-cream. Mind. Blown. Already with a creamy mouth feel, the beer suddenly becomes silken and luxurious with the ice-cream. Could this be the greatest beer spider/ beer float ever made? Next time.

Seriously though a Hystrix Float would be amazing.

You win this time Hystrix.

A note to those playing at home: do not have anything planned the day after a Devil Dog. You may not find it pleasant.
Also note that I didn’t write up anything about the Bone Yard Grapefruit IPA or the Nail Ale Australian Pale Ale. They weren’t tasted during the dawg eating so I decided to leave them out, for now. I will say, however, that they were delicious, the Bone Yard especially – bitter and tangy, just how I like it. The Nail Ale was decent but I’ll have to try it again when my taste-buds are less chilli ravaged.

Literally me after the Dare Devil (Skip to 1:09)
Run Amuk Hotdogs Unleashed on Urbanspoon

*If the Illuminati are reading this and looking for new members hit me up yo.

Parks and Ale

With little rhyme or reason, I’m jumping right into this blogging business with two brews from the land of corn and chowdaaaaa. The decision was based solely on circumstance and impulse thanks to fantastically stocked fridges of La Vigna on Walcott Street, perhaps a small (LARGE) indication of how this blog is going to roll. Do people still call blogs blogs anymore?

When taking on a few American beers there’s only one real drinking buddy to have – Ron Motherfucking Swanson. His views on small government and breakfast as an all-day food, not to mention that moustache, are the perfect accompaniment to a couple of fiery IPAs. Ok, I’ll admit drinking a few beers watching Parks and Recreation isn’t the most glamorous way to start this thing off, but when there’s moustaches involved there’s really little in the way of choice. The beers in question are the 2013 Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA and the classic excellence of Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA.

G I JOOOOEEEEEEEE

Real American Heroes

Ruthless Rye, the saucy minx that caught my eye like a bacon on bacon on steak Swanson Approved sandwich, was first down the hatch. I can’t recall ever having a rye-based malt before, but I can safely say that after this beer I’m a fan. Like most American-style pales Ruthless Rye has a fresh, herbaceous aroma, but isn’t too overwhelming. And the first official beer taste for this blog? Damn son. There’s an instant hint of spice and zest brought on from the rye malt, which turns into a nice back-of-the-mouth bitterness as it washes down. The texture is creamy but incredibly drinkable, and the 6.6% alcohol content was barely noticeable, which is fine if you’re into that sort of thing. As it went down the initial excitement of the beer wore off it became more of a pleasant experience than an exceptional one. Ruthless Rye is the Luke Wilson or maybe Paul Rudd of the beer world: inoffensive and plays a great straight-man, but unlikely to steal the show.

Old School was pretty great though.

Luke Wilson being pleasant.

As I slowly grew more American and learned the wisdom of small government, guns and breakfast-dinner from our Moustache In Chief Ron Swanson, Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA entered the room much like the majestic Haliaeetus leucocephalus (bald eagle, silly) and said, “what up?” Racer 5 has a big reputation and didn’t disappoint. I will admit two glasses of average semillon and a Glenlivet 12 year old may have dulled my pallet by this point, but the IPA stayed on song. The joy of these beers is how they’re full bodies and push through a crisp, citrusy bitterness while remaining light despite the high alcohol content. I actually can’t work out why I liked it so much, perhaps a “miscellaneous excellence” as my housemate put it. The colour is lighter than the Ruthless Rye but unfiltered, and is best had with an American flag waving in the background.

Tastes better deep fried.

*Salutes*

“Under my tutelage, you will grow from boys to men. From men into gladiators. And from gladiators into Swansons.” – Ron Swanson.