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!

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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.

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.