First thing of note: Before you open it, notice the word “Crushable” given as a complete sentence in its side. Not in reference to the can it resides in, but in reference to the liquid it holds. The phrase itself gives way to the memories (or absence of memories) of nights spent in old basements on college campuses and the lingering smell of this beer in the air. Yes, I would say this beer smells like college. Giving heed to the can, I decided to try to crush this beer and drink the whole thing in one go. Sorry Baderbrau, this beer is not “crushable”. I would have your marketing department try “$1 Happy Hour Worthy” instead.

Its not that this beer is bad. It is what it claims to be – easily drinkable. Its carbonated water with a barley insert. So the second thing of note: What makes this a Bohemian Pilsner? There is almost no head on the pour, there is no spice from the hops, and the flavor has no complexity to it. If they did use the Saaz hops required of the style, there is little lasting effects of its addition to the brew.

So, the final thing of note to this review: Chicago, you can keep your pilsner, the twin cities will continue to drink the bohemian pilsners here that truly represent the style.

This beer pays an homage to a lady the brewer knows that could be classified as a “wild brunette”. Having known brunettes in my past it makes sense that this beer company moved from Minnesota to Wisconsin, and lets everyone know that they came from MN. Left too early to see the beer boom here and now longs to be known once again as a Minnesotan…

You might be confused when you drink it – unless you know what wild rice tastes like from the field. This is not a beer that will blow your mind or having you set it down the first time to a “wow”. This one builds on you. Like “Minnesota Hot Dishes”. An outsider looks at it and tries it, but there is not much there. Then there is the second tasting. For this beer, this is the subtle harshness of the Wild Rice – for the hot dish it is the subtly of the minor flavors like mushroom or potato. The color comes from the wild rice as well, with a red-brown hue.

Overall, this one is a tasty treat, but its wonderment may be lost to those who do not treasure the flavor of wild rice as we do – which may be why Barley John’s is trying to be “Minnesotan” again…

ABV 6.5% – 75 IBUs – Citra & Cascade hops – Tangerine Puree

This is an IPA that was made for the nose. Pouring this into a glass it comes out orange-brown and has the distinct, and heavy, aroma of citrus rind. It has more grapefruit than tangerine on the nose, but the flavor comes through with a blood orange and clementine taste. Its description has it brewed with tangerine puree, but after tasting it this could just be spooned out of a cylinder of juice from your freezer.

I’d call this one a gateway IPA. Something you give to your aunt who loves grapefruit but can’t drink it anymore, and at a holiday gathering you pass this to her and just say “Try it”. “But I don’t like beer, what kind is this?“. “Violet, you’ll like it”. “But what kind is it?“. “It is an IPA, just try it already!”. “Ok, but if I don’t like it I am giving it back“.

Later that night you find your empty case in the beer cooler of a garage and Aunt Violet digging around in the attic for her old doll set, half naked and yelling that someone downstairs ruined her childhood. Like I said, gateway IPA. I’d say its good for a one-pour at a bar, but I would not go for another.

If there is one thing that I love in life (other than the obligatory wife and puppy response) I would say sitting down in the couch after a day on the job and hearing the crack of a beer and the long sigh that reciprocates from my body.

When looking around to find a “dark” beer or two to fill that criteria in the beer advent I found JPs Brewing sitting on the shelf. This caught my attention because – A: never heard of them, and B: they have a White Stout. For those of you who got the White Stout, you are in for a treat. For those of you who got the Porter, I am doubly jealous. We split this company up randomly for who got the cases

Who knew you could make a Stout that looked like a pilsner? These guys have it [mostly] figured out. Too many times working behind the bar I have been told that a person does not like “dark” beers but in our conversation I slide them one and they say “oh… I like that!” Where did this mantra come from!

JPs White Stout is a stab at that idea. It is a beer that pours light amber but tastes just like a robust stout. Its not a doppelgänger to a stout it has the right ideas – light in flavor, malt backbone, and high drinkability. What really can you ask for in a beer?

Today’s beer is Belhaven‘s Scottish Ale. This brewery has been around a while, first opening its doors in 1719- as a reference: Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire in that year. This beer sits at 5% ABV and 21 on the IBU scale.

Let me take a moment to walk you down memory lane. I spent some time in Kenya, in the farming city of Naru Moru specifically. I was there to climb the mountains and work with the schools that were in the area and how they could exist with the system of testing that they have. Often I would walk the 30 minutes after school down the gravel roads to the pub that existed at the crossroads. This place really only had two beers, and only one was ‘cold’ – White Cap. The taste of that beer after teaching those days made me feel like I was at home with a cold one, even though it was nothing like the beers I would pull off the shelves here. That being said, this beer tasted just so, in a way that my mind could go one of two ways – back to the homeland sitting on a couch, or wondering how a place could produce beer in a land of sagebrushes and dust storms. There really was nothing to White Cap Lager, only sugared malt and carbonation, and Belhaven’s Scottish Ale tastes the same to me.

Now that being said, I am not going to rate this one highly. The taste of crystal malt is not one that my tongue approves of. Although they may get a couple points due to taking me back to a place that my mind has not revisited in a while…

This begins our 24 days of beer reviews as we joined with Beer with Brendan to send cases out to friends and family to taste both what is new, local and unavailable in our area.

To start us off we have Two BrothersHeavy Handed” which is their wet hopped IPA. It sits at 6.7% ABV and 65 IBUs for their 12 for oz bottles. This beer has been produced for a couple years and has a 86 on the Beer Advocate scale of 100. Two Brothers brewing started in 1996 and with “You can buy our beer. You can’t buy our brewery.” proudly plastered on the front of their website you know these two are in it for the beer and not the trend.

Late in the wet hop lifespan this beer has lingering tangy bitter notes and a big mouth of malt. There are citrus tastes like pine and orange rind on the tongue. As it pours there is almost no head and very little lacing down the glass as the contents emptied. The beer finishes with a light linger but not dry as you would expect from heavy-hopped beers. Amber in color (had to ask, I am pretty decently colorblind).  Marked on the back of the bottle is “Cascade Lot #2706” and searches of this only produced real estate in Cascade TX, probably no correlation. They do different batches of this beer with different acreages of hops – It would be beneficial in the future to try a flight of these now that I know this, testing the base with different hops would be great!

What’s your comments on the beer? I gave this one a 5/10 as it tasted overly… everything. Too much of one doesn’t get balanced out by increasing the other for me. But this is coming from someone who does not have a taste for IPAs. Leave your comments.

This recipe comes from a visit to Revival in South Minneapolis. After my first mouthful of their Tennessee hot chicken I knew I had to try to recreate it at home (the Cheetos style Pork Rinds are next). Good thing they announced recently that they were going to expand, that place always had a line and we had to get in at open to find a spot to sit down. This recipe is damn close to what they have.

The optional spent grain flour ingredient was one I have been meaning to use in a recipe and this was my opportunity. If you are brewers like us, I would recommend trying it out.


The Meat:
6 Chicken breasts, preferably never frozen
Dry Rub:
1/4 C Beef Ribs Spice Rub
The Coating:
5 Eggs
4 C Flour
1/4 C Spent Grain Flour (optional)
1 T Cayenne
1 T Granulated garlic
1/2 T Beef Ribs Spice Rub
Finishing Sauce:
3 T Cayenne Pepper
2 T Brown Sugar
1 t Garlic powder
1 t Yellow Curry
1 C Fry oil (careful!)

Start by cutting the breasts into tender-style strips, usually around 3 per breast. Put in large bowl and sprinkle on and mix in dry rub until modestly coated. This will not take the entire 1/4 cup, save some for the coating. Put in fridge and let sit for at least two hours.

Break the eggs and whisk in a large bowl. In a separate bowl thoroughly mix together the dry ingredients. Pull the chicken out of the fridge and dip them in the dry mix and place them on a plate. This step should be done ahead of time to allow the chicken to warm up a bit from the fridge before cooking, 30 minutes or so.

Set your deep fryer to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Dredge a piece of chicken in the eggs and raise to let the excess drip. Dip once more in the dry mix and tap out any excess. Place in your fryer, , laying it away from yourself, making sure not to overcrowd the space – leaving about an inch between pieces.

Let cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull out of the fryer and place on a rack to cool and drip.

Mix the dry ingredients from the finishing sauce and with a dry, clean, metal or glass measuring cup pull out some of the fry oil and pour on top of the dry ingredients. Mix well. Either brush on or dredge the mixture onto the finished chicken.

If you brew dark beers I believe this is a step that should be included in every brew day. The flavors that you get from the dark roasted malts are unique and can add a lot of flavor to what you are making.

If you brew beers on the lighter color spectrum this can be a great filler for recipes and add a bit of a story to your next recipe. “Yeah, it tastes great because its made out of the grain from the brew I just did!”

I mainly brew with a BIAB method, giving me easy transport of the grain between brewing and milling for flour. With BIAB I hang the bag up over a laundry sink and let it hang and drip until the amount of water left in there is minimal, usually overnight. Massage it a bit periodically to get out as much moisture as possible. If you are going full grain I would recommend looking at your baking equipment and deciding how much you want to keep – I have a large colander that I put grain in after a brew and let the moisture drop a bit before drying in the oven.

Ingredients:
Leftover grain from a batch of brewing

Take your grain after partially drying in the air and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Do not pour on the grain too thick, it should not be over 1/2 inch. If you need to, use two baking sheets on two racks in the oven to maximize drying time.

Set your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and mix the grain every few hours. It is done in the oven when you mix the grain and it feels like it is devoid of all moisture, usually 6-8 hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

A few cupfuls at a time, put the dried grain into a mixer (like a vitamix) and grind until it is a fine mist. Pour into an airtight container until all of the grain has been mixed. Lasts for a few months in a dark pantry.

The following is a version of the Award Winning Beef Ribs served at mancuisine’s smökathon in 2016. It is important to note that when planning to make this recipe, call your butcher well ahead of time as they do not often stockpile beef ribs in their facility – a shame, as these ribs far surpass any flavor you can get from the same style of cut that is offered in pork. I am giving the full recipe for a competition sized portion, make any adjustments as needed or make extra as the rub will last in a pantry for the next time you make these ribs (and there will be a next time, trust me).

Setup for the beef ribs at the beginning of the cook time
Setup for the beef ribs at the beginning of the cook time

I use an offset smoker, with an old bread pan filled with water directly next to the firebox in the cook chamber. Water pans are highly recommended to be used in this recipe – if cooking the ribs in the oven as I have been known to do, I will place a pan with water in there as well to keep the moisture level up in the chamber.


The Meat:
4 racks Texas style beef ribs
Remove the meat from the fridge 1 hour before cooking to allow the meat to get near room temperature. Trim any excess fat and score the membrane on the underside of the rib along each bone with a knife – this gives the rest of the fat easy access to drip out, and there will be plenty over the cook time.

The Rub:
1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
3 T chili flakes
1/3 cup + 1 T sea salt
Put the peppercorns and chili flakes into a spice or coffee grinder and grind them into a rough sand, you do not want it to be too fine. Mix in the salt and put 1/4 to 1/2 of the mixture onto the ribs, making sure to get it into the meat, the sides and the bottom of the racks.

Start your coals, fire or oven and bring your vessel to 225 degrees. Maintain this temperature the entire cook time. Know your vessel and what it needs to stay there, and when those times come when more fuel is needed to be added. This is key to a good piece of meat at the end of the day.

Put the ribs into the smoker with the thicker bone side facing the firebox or heat source. Rub in last 1/2 of the dry rub into the top side of the ribs. Close the vessel and watch your temperature.

If cooking multiple racks, rotate the meat every 1.5 to 2 hours to ensure that each one is cooked evenly. 5 hours into the cook time, wrap the ribs with an unlined butcher paper. I do the simple envelope style where the ribs are placed in the center with the membrane side up, fold the four corners into the center, tuck them under and place back in the vessel as they had been when taken out. I cook these using only wood, if you are cooking with charcoal and wood chunks I recommend doing this step and hour or two later. This is also the step where you may add your favorite sauce to the ribs, but they will also be amazing just with the rub.

finished product at the final unwrapping
finished product at the final unwrapping

8 hours into cook time remove the ribs, still wrapped, and place them into a cooler or large plastic container. Leave them there for one hour, remove, unwrap, sauce, and cut into individual ribs.

Make sure to have some paper towels handy, as these ribs will be juicy!

Our smökathon [also previously know as ribfest] took a different angle this year on competitive cooking, as our challengers were able to select any cut of meat from a cow or a pig and not just pork ribs as ruled in the past. Every person selected something unique from each other in happenstance, as we discussed what we were cooking at a meeting a few days before the event.

Jeff doing an initial check of the brisket before the long haul of smoking
Jeff doing an initial check of the brisket before the long haul of smoking

Jeff was to cook a brisket in his new beast of a smoker, Brad to cook a pork shoulder. Adam was telling us that he was going to cook up some pulled pork from a pork loin and Doug found an uncured ham he was going to smoke all day. I chose to try to tackle beef ribs and Trevor took the challenge of making pastrami from scratch. A great unplanned variety from the cooks in our first year of opening up the options.

Trevor's set-up at the beginning of the day
Trevor’s set-up at the beginning of the day

Jeff in his competitive nature rolled up to our venue at 4:30 am to put the coals on and begin his process. The rest of us came down around 7:30 and did the same. It was 8:00 am when Jeff cracked his first beer open, as the long day of sustaining temperature means you have to slow down a bit and relax around your firebox.

Weather reports started pinging on our phones around noon as a severe weather alert had been issued for our area! This would be a new challenge for us, as the weather had always complemented our days of cooking in the past.

Most of us chose to put some foil down as insulation
Most of us chose to put some foil down as insulation

It did not take long for us to get the needed protection set up for our smokers and battle the cool-down that the rain would inevitably bring. The rain kept the competitors busy for the few hours that it did come down, but for the most part our smokers held temperature and it was a minor hiccup in the day.

The rain broke around 3:00 and the people came rushing in. Coolers stocked with beer and drinks and the conversations in the crowd were fulfilling and plentiful. This is the real reason why we do these competitions every year – to bring our friends and family together over food and merriment. 

As the 5:00 pm judging time was beginning to approach there were many tactics that emerged as to what could be done to finish the meat. Foil and butcher paper rolls were unearthed and coolers opened. Some wrapped with sauce, others without. It was a year of high diversity in our outcomes. smokathon winners

In the end it was Trevor, with the pastrami, who received the most amount of votes from the crowd as their favorite and he took home the traveling belt. Isaac, with the beef ribs, got the highest tally from the 5 judges and took home the trophy.

Hope to see you all next year at our 8th annual smökathon in 2017!