Sláinte! Uisce Beatha na Éireann

Week 11 in the Year Of Drinking Adventurously!  Irish Whiskey. (I hope I got my Irish translation right!)

That’s me waving to you from the cliffs of Dun Aengus on Innis More, one of The Aran Islands off the West Coast of Ireland. I’ve been to Ireland three times and I’m sure we’ll go again.  I’m trying to figure out how to move there permanently, that’s how much I love it.

So Irish Whiskey… It’s a permanent fixture in my liquor cabinet.  Most  of the time I have a bottle of regular old Jameson’s in my stash.

 Sometimes I splurge and buy the Red Breast, which is a “single pot still” style.  A pot still is like a huge kettle where the batch is boiled, the vapors rise, are collected and cooled to produce the whiskey.   Since the pot has to be cleaned after each use, only one batch of whiskey is produced  from the single pot.

My imbibition of Irish whiskey generally involves a glass and some ice.  Sometimes not even the ice.  Occasionally not even the glass!  (Just kidding!)  However, I have a fun, terribly-named, politically incorrect cocktail for you to try.  Actually, I’m not sure this qualifies as a cocktail.  If you go to Ireland, do not ask for this drink.  You will be deported.  And for Paddy’s sake, don’t tell anyone you learned it from me or they’ll never let me back in.

The Irish Car Bomb:  (Don’t say I didn’t warn you…)

Fill a shot glass with a half shot each, Jameson’s Irish whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream
Drop the shot glass into a pint glass of Guinness and watch it “explode”
Chug the whole thing in one fell swoop so you don’t lose a drop!
Enjoy responsibly!  Oh wait, too late for that…

When we travel to Ireland, it’s primarily for my husband’s work.  His company has a facility in Galway.  I get to tag along, but that means that for most of the time, I’m off traipsing around by myself.  That’s not a recipe for disaster, no.  The girl who fancies herself a writer wandering around the gorgeous countryside, listening to fairy tales and visiting the pubs on her own?  Not to mention the lovely men people and some of the best whiskey on the planet.  What could possibly go wrong?

There are pubs that cater to the foreign visitors and there are those that are more for the locals.  In Galway, I like to go to this place called Garavan’s – definitely more of a local hangout than a tourist place – where they pretend to want your business but they really don’t.  And they haven’t forgiven England for… well, everything.  Even stuff that’s not their fault.

So anyway, it’s dark inside, the tables are all close together with little stools crowded around.  They still have a small room at the front where ladies used to have to sit separately from the main part of the pub.  I think sometimes the bartender wants me to go have a seat in there.  But then I can’t see the hurling match on TV.  And ask him lots of questions while he tries to ignore me.

Garavan’s has a collection of 125 different whiskeys and a whiskey tasting menu.  The last time I was there I tried the Irish writer’s collection – a sampler of 5 different whiskeys from a few of Ireland’s most famous writers like James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats.  I forget what all I tried.  But I definitely remember that the one I liked best was The Yellow Spot 12-year-old single pot still whiskey.  And I remember something about the Women’s Rugby World Cup – Ireland versus England.  And that they turned the TV off during “God Save the Queen.”  Things got ugly when Ireland started to lose.  And I made the mistake of asking for an Irish Car Bomb

Go visit Lula and see if she found the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow!

Romancing the barrel

Week 9 in The Year of Drinking Adventurously.  Bourbon barrel aged beer.

Despite the growing craft beer movement, the beer industry is still dominated by large industrial brewers like Anheuser Busch.  So chances are, unless you are a beer afficionado, you aren’t likely to have tried a bourbon-barrel aged beer.  Just like it sounds, a batch of beer is stored for a period of time -aging- in a bourbon barrel for a number of weeks.  It gives the brew a distinctive flavor.  And really, it’s quite the practical reuse of something that would otherwise be discarded.

Yep, that’s right.  Bourbon producers only use a barrel once.  That seems like such a waste!  No worries, though, the rest of the whisky producing world is happy to take America’s bourbon barrels off her hands.  Canada, Ireland, Scotland… they all use old bourbon barrels to store and age their whiskies.  And of course, another one of the uses for a pre-owned bourbon barrel is aging beer.  Even small-time microbreweries are acquiring old barrels for this purpose.

I chose to drink Allagash Brewery’s Curieux. IMG_1272And what a sexy brew it is!  (Thus the ‘romance’ in the title.)  It’s corked – champagne style.  At eleven percent alcohol. it’s another butt-kicker, so be forewarned.  Curieux is made by aging Allagash’s Belgian Tripel in Jim Beam barrels for eight weeks.  At that time a splash of fresh tripel is added before kegging or bottling the batch.  The end result?  Hints of vanilla, coconut and bourbon…  Yum!  And wait till you hear this –the recommended food pairing is cheesecake, roquefort or creme brulee!!  I think it’s really funny that beer has gotten snobby enough for food pairing! (snort!)

Ok, so I’m sipping on it, as I write this.  The flavors are subtle.  Not strongly of any one thing.  Not real beer-like either.  Highly carbonated but without a lot of head.  Crisp and… woo! going straight to my head!  Bring on the creme brulee…

Don’t forget to see what Lula drank this week!


Feeling a little chili

Week 7 of the Year of Drinking Adventurously!

So beer!  Yay!  We have left the realm of exotic potent potables and returned to a place I am familiar with – the land of beer!  You have no idea how excited I am!  Or maybe you do, I haven’t ended a sentence with anything but an exclamation point so far!

The first entry in the brew department is Chili Pepper beer, a subgenre of the micro- or craft brew movement.  According to Jeff’s book: 51fffcpqPZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Nothing pairs better with spicy food, than a chili pepper beer.  In fact, it leaves wine in the dust, much to the chagrin of wine snobs.   I went on a mission to find Left Hand Brewing Company’s Fade to Black Porter.  My pals at North Penn Beverage had it in stock!  Listen to the description:  Dried ancho, smoked Serrano, and brown chipotle peppers, infused in a dark mahogany, medium bodied porter. The resulting brew balances the vegetal, peppery heat with a subtle smokiness, making it a good companion for rich stews of assorted wild game.  It also kind of makes me want to go hunting.  (Kidding!)

Mr. Sorick wearing shades so he can’t be identified in a line-up.

Alas, Harry, my situationally practical husband, pointed out that buying an expensive (ish) case of porter that only I would drink (because he is lame!), when we already have 2 full kegs of home brew and a case of Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald (which is also a porter), is kind of silly.

“But it’s for my blog!”  I whined.  “And it sounds so good!”

“Go look for it at Wegman’s,” he replied with a long-suffering sigh.  “At least, you can buy just a six-pack.”

“Fine,” I grumbled.  “No squirrel and turnip stew for you.”

But of course Wegman’s didn’t have the Fade to Black.  Grr.  So what I came home with was Tommyknocker Green Chile Lager pictured in the header.  And it was not at all what I wanted.  Now, I’m not going to bash the Tommyknocker* (cough!) because beneath the green chile flavor was a nice crisp lager.  I would absolutely consider trying some of the other varieties they brew.  They seem like a pretty cool little brewery.  Of course, not one to waste beer, I will find a way to use the Green Chile Lager.  It might actually make a good base for a marinade or be incorporated into an actual batch of chili.  Nevertheless, now I really need that Fade to Black Porter!  I considered venturing out in the snowstorm for it, but better judgement prevailed.  Then again, if I’d ended up in a ditch, at least Harry would have to acknowledge that it’s never practical to settle for something you don’t really want.

Don’t forget to check in with Lula and see what she drank this week!

*A little folklore from the side of the bottle:  “Tommyknockers slipped into the mining camps of Idaho Springs in the 1800s with the discovery of gold in our mountains and streams.  Those mischievous elves, though hardly ever seen, were often heard singing and working.  They guided many fortunate miners from harm’s way and to the gold they sought.”