No Fry… What you really need is beer.
An impending snow storm is descending upon the Northeast and in my area we are looking to get at least a foot of snow. That means everyone is running out to get the three necessary food items before huddling inside: Bread. Milk. Eggs.
But beer drinkers have their own unique needs and I have three for you.
Bread: Toaster Pastry by 21st Amendment is an India Style Red Ale brewed to celebrate their big expansion into a former bakery that made toaster pastries (read: Pop Tarts). I had this beer about a month ago. It is hard to find and it was a little on the pricey side but worth every penny. 21st Amendment uses biscuit malts that gave the beer a great bready flavor. Balanced between malty and sweet juicy hops left me in love with this beer. The mouth feel was thick with a great long finish. Toaster Pastry is an absolute killer.
Milk: Lancaster Milk Stout by Lancaster Brewing Company. I feel like in the Central PA beer scene the folks at LBC sometimes gets forgotten. LBC has been around making great local craft beer for so long now that they easily get forgotten among a culture that puts a high price on “new.” This beer, LBC Milk Stout, has been standout for a great Lanacster brewery for years and I every time I have one I wonder why I don’t order these more often. Hints of chocolate and coffee, but it is really all about the thick and creamy mouthfeel. A slight sweetness comes in the finish to compliment the pleasantly bitter notes from the front. It’s a great example of how to properly brew a milk stout and properly represents the brewery’s namesake, Lancaster County.
Eggs: The Martians Kidnapped Santa Egg Nog Stout by Spring House Brewing Company is a sweet stout and one of my favorite beers in Lancaster County. Spring House has a knack for making great stouts. I think they have a great stout base and that they play off this with an impressive number of variations, each one better than the last. Kerplunk! Coffee Stout, Satan’s Bake Sale Mint Chocolate Chip Stout, the transcendent Blood Lust RIS, and the twin killers Big and Lil’ Gruesome Stout. Martians Kidnapped Santa is still available at Spring House and in the Central PA area. If you have yet to enjoy some this year, get on it as it is a fantastic winter stout. The flavors of heavy cream, vanilla, nutmeg with a whiff of cinnamon come through from nose to finish.
If you can’t find any of the above or want the easy choice, grab a case of my absolute favorite Central PA beer, Nugget Nectar (in the cans). Nothing will beat tilting a couple of these back with a bowl of chili after shoveling the drive way.
Now, have a beer and enjoy the snow…
Right now driving around Central PA the farm stands are all open and there is one piece of produce that is at peak: Strawberries.
Let us forget for a minute my last post about summer beer and their light and crisp flavor profile and instead focus on what pairs right with a fresh bowl of ripe red sweet and slightly tart strawberries. In my opinion these tend to be malty, heavier beers that contrast the natural flavors of the berries.
My fist pick is ¿Impending Descent? by Troegs. This gonzo Russian Imperial Stout gets released each November so I buy in bulk to enjoy it on occasion throughout the year and have been ageing a large number as a running vertical. If you have one tucked away, pairing it with some fresh local strawberries will work out perfectly. The copious amount of malts (six varieties) provide for various flavors of dark chocolate, vanilla, and coffee. The roasted malts work wonderfully with the sweet tart fruit. If this beer has been cellaring for a time the pine and resin hop notes will have muted and left a perfect pairing. If you can’t get a hand on ¿Impending Descent? I suggest picking up the always available Javahead Stout or racing out to the Hershey brewer right quick and picking up a growler of Scratch #192 a velvety smooth and decadent chocolate stout.
Palo Santo Marron by Dogfish Head Brewing will pair nicely. The caramel, vanilla, and wood flavors from this 12% ABV brown ale will marry wonderfully. The roasted notes along with molasses and a round mouth feel just work. This is a world class beer and would be right at home with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some strawberries.
Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Ale is a wonderfully crisp and tart fruit beer from the world famous English brewers. Smooth malts with a soft mouth feel and subtle strawberry finish will be intensified by local fresh berries. This beer is easy drinking at 5% ABV. I would pair this with a strawberry and baby spinach salad with a light poppy dressing for dinner.
After dinner consider opening a bottle of Southern Tier’s Crème Brulee Imperial Milk Stout. This beer is the pinnacle of Southern Tier’s very highly regarded Blackwater Series in my opinion. Remarkably this beer tastes exactly like its name sake. In fact, it is downright magical in likeness. Cream, vanilla, and burnt sugar come straight through with a long sweet lasting finish. This 9.6% ABV full bodied beer has an exceptional mouthfeel and would be a fine addition to a strawberry shortcake dessert.
If you ever had the pleasure of driving through Elizabethtown, PA you likely got a whiff of what are two of the biggest industries in Central PA; chocolate and dairies. One is decidedly more pleasant than the other. On breezy days the roasted chocolate aroma can waft for miles around from the M&M Mars plant. It is always welcome and inviting. Central PA has an abundance of chocolatiers. These include M&M, Hershey and preferred by me, Wilbur in Lititz.
In order to supply these plants there are plenty of dairy cows in the area. Driving around Lancaster county back roads gives you a real sense of just how big the dairy industry is. They are everywhere.
These two facts makes Lancaster Brewing Company’s Double Chocolate Milk Stout a great representative for its namesake. I procured a 22 oz. bomber and poured the dark brown opaque beer into a snifter glass which brought forth a light brown to tan head that laced the glass lightly. Aromas of bitter chocolate like a 70% cacao dark chocolate bar are accompanied by a soft sweetness and is inviting. Lancaster Brewing created this with cacao nibs and it is evident with every sip. This beer is chocolate through-and-through.
It has a velvety texture in the mouthfeel and is thick without the greasiness of some imperial stouts. The lactose sugars are evident in the finish along with hints of caramel and roasted malts. The finish is long, of again, cacao. The beer tastes of Hershey’s syrup but has more of a refined chocolate expression in the long lasting and pleasant finish. This beer is beyond smooth in texture and mouthfeel with 6.8% ABV that is never evident or intrusive.
Deep, dark chocolate again and again given as a single note played over and over. But it works in the same way Portlandia got cacao to work as an example of repetition as comedy. If you like chocolate, especially semi-sweet or bitter chocolate you will love this beer. The chocolate notes are divided up as you drink. In that the front it is sweeter and along the lines of milk or semi-sweet chocolate. The more bitter and refined dark cacao flavors come in the finish to wrap things up with a flourish. It’s dynamic yet monochromatic not unlike Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White. This libation is not deconstructing what it is to be “beer” as monochromatic art can change both the concept of abstraction and art but it does let you explore the complexities of doubling down on a singular flavor profile.
Double Chocolate Milk Stout is an excellent dessert beer. As local strawberries are soon in season, I would highly recommend this as a pairing or do as I plan to the next time and drop a scoop of vanilla ice cream in for a beer float. It can be found on tap or in 12 oz bottles, but I would spring for the 22 oz. bomber and split it with a friend; it’s just right.
Lancaster Brewing Company’s Double Chocolate Milk Stout gets the Bearcat Seal of Approval.