Endless Beer: Dark Water IPA

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Alright kids; number two from my beer trade is a black IPA. Black IPA sounds odd to many people. What it means is that it is a beer that keeps the “integrity” of an IPA, but also has the malty profile of a dark beer. Black IPAs come in many different shapes, sizes, and flavors. For me, the key to a quality black IPA is having the hop-forward flavor without losing the dark color of the beer and the sweet malt flavor of a dark beer. Some will go too many hops or too little hops. The key is balance (kind of ironic in an IPA). Imperial Oak Brewing Company offers us a black IPA weighing in at 90 IBUs (pretty average for an IPA). Anyway, here’s the flavors!

ABV:9%

Tasting Notes:

Appearance: Black, nearly opaque with tan head

Aroma: Hops and biscuity

Taste: Roasted malts in the front – mixture of coffee and bitter chocolate, followed by strong hop flavor. Hop bitterness holds throughout, balanced by the roasted malt flavor. Slight notes of caramel in the back end.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and creamy mouthfeel.

Overall: Definitely an above average black IPA. The flavors are well thought-out and keep me wanting more after each sip. Has the definite profile of an IPA with the roasted malty flavor typically coming from such a dark beer.

Endless Rating: 4.25/5 Suds

Endless Pairings:

Cheese: Buttermilk Blue with crustini, grapes, and dried apricot

Appetizer: Buffalo Wings

Entree: Grilled pork chop with spinach and acorn squash

Dessert: Chocolate cake

Cigar: CAO Sol

Ooey, Gooey, Better-Than-Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls

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Ooey, gooey cinnamon rolls. Isn’t that the only way cinnamon rolls should be described? Hot damn. My wife (Italian) overdoes herself in almost all cooking and baking endeavors (to my advantage typically). One day, we received a shipment of flour and all other sorts of baking materials. Of course, my scrooge-like instincts kicked in and asked “what the hell do we need all of this for?” The response was cinnamon rolls. Skeptical, I muttered this and that under my breath and hauled in yet another package from our porch to the spare bedroom.

Weeks later, Christmas morning came along and these amazing cinnamon rolls were served. Holy crap. I never need to even salivate at the thought of a Cinnabon cinnamon roll in the mall. These will do the trick every time. The dough was moist  and buttery, breaking apart by pulling at it with your fingers. The cinnamon filling was so good I could eat it alone. Usually, the table fights for the icing, but every ounce of this thing was spot on. Of course, speaking of icing, the cream cheese icing was a great balance to the cinnamon filling. I think each one of us hacked away at two in one sitting.

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New Year’s Resolution: Drink More Coquito

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Cocktails, beer, wine, does it really get any better? The holiday season brought us several additional pounds, great food, and obviously tons of booze. BUT, you may have missed out on one of the best parts of the holidays: the Coquito. Coined as “Puerto Rican Egg Nog,” the Coquito brings Christmas flavors to the palate in addition to sweet flavors of coconut and rum. Sounds awful, I know.

I jealously overheard a co-worker saying, “they should fill Nalgene bottles of that shit” and was instantly intrigued. Turns out it was some kind of amazing concoction of coconut, rum, cream and spices. Some use egg, others do not. I spent the rest of my day dreaming of booze and Christmas. When I come home to the wife, she has a small bottle of “some kind of Puerto Rican drink.” BOOM. Santa WAS good to me! Unfortunately, the bottle went quickly and I now need a recipe. Not the kind of recipe you find online. I want a genuine Puerto Rican recipe with all the secrets in it. Anyway, you may still be wondering what it tastes like.

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Endless Beer: Imperial Oak’s Crank it Hop IPA

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I’ve been so busy drinking beer over the Holidays. It’s been tough. As I mentioned, my favorite time of the year is beer trades and exchanges. From my beer trade with Chicago, I tried the “Crank it Hop” IPA from Imperial Oak Brewing Company. From a grolwer, the suds still had great carbonation and I was able to complete the hard job of tasting 32 ounces of beer. Enough already…here are the notes.

ABV: 6%

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Transparent gold with white head

Aroma: Bitter and hoppy aroma with sweet citrus

Taste: Very sweet matly and caramel flavor in the front end. Follows with slight citrus flavors of orange and grapefruit and ends with strong hop finish.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly smooth finish and buttery mouthfeel throughout.

Overall: Very well balanced IPA. It is a sweeter IPA than you typically expect when you think of the style, but the sweetness is pleasant. Smooth drink that was easy to finish even 32 ounces of.

ES Rating: 4.5/5 Suds

Endless Pairings

Cheese: Sweet fig goat cheese with toasted salty almonds and dried cranberries

Appetizer: Candied bacon!

Entree: Grilled barbecue chicken with sauteed green beans and sweet potato puree

Dessert: Caramel Cheesecake

Cigar: Alec Bradley American Sun Grown

 

 

Straight ‘Outta the Trade

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The best time of the year for me is typically when our quarterly beer exchange happens, or when my beer trades happen with my cousins. It started with my “cousin-in-law” from Seattle and has not reached Chicago. With all the beers available in the country, why not taste as much as possible? Well, my Chicago trade has arrived! I look for unique brews from places that I cannot get locally. Well, my cousin delivered in more than one way. First, these brews come from a microbrewery in Chicago. Second, they came in crowlers!

What’s the big deal with crowlers? well, I would say they are overrated if you’re just going to your local brew pub. However, for the sake of beer trades, crowlers make it even more possible to share beer with your friends that was once nearly impossible (unless you want to daringly attempt to send a growler). Anyway, here’s what came straight ‘outta the trade this time (tastes to follow):

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Baking Gone Wild! Top 10 Over-the-Top Baked Goods for the Holidays

I’ve been sucked in. For some reason, I can’t stop watching The Great American Baking Show. I don’t know if it’s the soothing voices of Nia Vardalos and Ian Gomez, the adorable British version of your grandma in Mary Berry (seriously – even her name), or the hunkish looks and personality (yes, I am comfortable with my sexuality) of Johnny Iuzzini. Whatever it is, I’m hooked. Then I started thinking about the 150 million dozen cookies my wife baked, the bread we are baking for Christmas dinner, the delicious cinnamon buns we have Christmas morning, the list goes on. We are in the heart of the season of baking. Some savory bakes, others totally sweet. Either way – we have it all. After much thought, eating, and more eating, we have the top ten breads, cakes, and bakes for the holidays. You’re welcome.

In no particular order…

10. Rolo Cheesecake Bars

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Thank god for bakers, right?

9. Six Layer S’mores Bars

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When a dessert is described as “oozing” with peanut butter, chocolate, and marshmallow, I’m in. Don’t tell me anything more.

8. Chocolate and Toffee Pecan Pinwheels

That is puff pastry. Yes, it does make everything even that much better. Carry on.

7. Pistachio Rum Mini Bundt Cakes

Pistachio Chewy Bite Mini Rum Cakes

Sure, you could make a chocolate bundt cake. But let’s be real – you’re making it from a box and nobody’s going to finish the whole thing. Try these for a change.

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Endless Beer: 2016 Anchor Christmas Ale

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Anchor Brewing Company continues their 42 year-old tradition every Christmas season by releasing their seasonal Christmas ale. While the name does not change, the recipe and illustration does. The recipe is kept secret, so maybe their fooling all of us, but from what I can tell, there is a change in recipes throughout the years. I’ve been saving one every year for the past four years. Next year, I’ll taste each year and let you know. Until then…

ABV: 6.5%

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Black in color, but is not opaque. When held up to the light, you can barely see through it. Head is tan.

Aroma: Sweet smells of maple, fig, and cherry in addition to the scents of bread.

Taste: SWEET. Tastes of maple and roasted malts come first, followed by a chocolate flavor. Fruity flavor of years past is there, but not as strong. Winter spices are very subtle in this one – clove, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Mouthfeel: Creamy and smooth throughout – goes down easy.

Overall: Bought a case for my exchange, then bought a 12 pack for myself. This is a great dessert beer without going too heavy. This year’s is very balanced and has a great flavor that does remind you of Christmas.

Endless Rating: 4.3333/5 Candy Canes

Endless Pairings:

Cheese: Fig goat cheese with rusted nuts, dried fruit, and crustini

Appetizer: Roasted Garlic Chicken Satay

Entree: Roasted pork loin over apples and sweet potatoes with sauteed broccolini

Dessert: Chocolate pear panettone

Cigar: Nat Sherman Timeless Dominican

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