Coeliacs Need Love Too: Estrella Damm Daura

11 Jan

Damm good for a gluten-free beer

I’ve got a thing for gluten.  Bread, pasta, beer – three of my favorite things in this world.  I can’t imagine what I would do if, one day, I found out I couldn’t have them anymore.  Too painful to even think about.  Unfortunately for many, the simple act of consuming these basic staples of the average Western diet is enough to send their digestive tract into fits.

Thankfully for the Coeliac beer lover, “beer” or beer-like beverages can be made from grains other than the main offenders barley, wheat, rye and oats – sorghum and millet are among the more popular. Unfortunately, most of these alternative-malt beers bear little resemblance to their glutened brethren in the taste department.  Daura, the two-time champion in its category at the World Beer Awards from Spanish brewer Estrella Damm, eschews exotic grains for science and uses proprietary technologies to create a beer with less than 6ppm of gluten from barley malt.  The real question is – does it taste like beer?

I was introduced to Daura at a local beer distributer event/trade show here in Madison a few months ago.  Pro-tip: stick around long enough and the beer reps will give you their leftovers rather than lug it back to their cars.

Estrella Damm Daura

Style: Gluten-free Euro-style Pale Lager

Vitals: 5.4% abv, 6ppm or less of gluten, ~$6.99/4-pack at Barriques Wine and Spirits

Company Line: “Estrella Daura is a 5.4% mainstream pilsner lager with a universal flavour and character.  The high quality of the beer is due to the fine selection of ingredients – ensuring that Daura has all the taste, but none of the gluten of a regular beer.”

My Take: Daura pours a pale straw yellow under snow white head typical of Euro-style pilseners.  Aroma hits all the Euro lager notes of light cereal malts, crisp, grassy hops, and a hint of  citrus and spice.  Hits the palate with dry, biscuity malt and faint, herbal noble hops, lending a crisp, spicy finish.  Body is light and bubbly, as one would expect.

Look, Estrella Daura is a pale lager.  It tastes like a hundred other pale lagers I’ve sampled from Europe, Latin America and Asia.  That’s what’s amazing about this beer.  It tastes like beer.  Most of the gluten-free beers I’ve tried taste like some Frankenstein mash-up of cream soda, tequila and Four Loko.  For a coeliac who wants nothing more than a beer that tastes like beer, Estrella Daura is a game-changer.  Hands-down the best-tasting, most beer-like gluten-free beer I’ve had.  I still hope I never see the day when there’s nothing but Estrella Daura in my fridge, though.  No offense.

Oh hey, remember me?

11 Jan

Your absentee blogger is back on premises

So yeah, I kind of fell off the face of the blogosphere for a bit there, didn’t I?  Yeah, I did.  Sorry about that.  You don’t need any excuses and I don’t have any other than…I went through the inevitable blogger’s-block that strikes from time to time.

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions (why set yourself up for failure?), but my first goal for 2011 is to get my act together and get back to blathering on about what new beer and wine I’m guzzling and food I’m shoving in my face, because I know these few months haven’t been the same for you all without it.

Rest assured, I’m still trying great new beers and wines and I even occasionally make food that’s tasty and pretty enough to snap blurry photos of and I think I’m ready to share my thoughts with the world again.  So, to those of you still plugged-in and even mildly interested…I’M BACK.  For now, anyway.  Like I said, why set yourself up for failure.  Happy 1/11/11!

Obviously You’re Not a Baker: Banana-Apple-Pear Bread

27 Sep

Sometimes you eat the bread, and...well, sometimes the bread eats you.

I may be a lot of things, but a baker has never really been one of them.  I don’t really like recipes.  Too confining.  I don’t like to measure.  I’m like your grandma – pinch of this, dash of that.  What’s in my fridge?  What’s in my cupboards?  What can I throw together?  That’s how I operate.  As such, the precise chemistry of baking – along with the fact that I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth – has meant that my oven is more often filled with meatloaves than bread loaves.

The rare exceptions have been the occasional batch of brownies, lemon curd bars and slightly more often – banana bread.  Not too sweet.  Good for breakfast or as a snack.  A good way to use up over-ripe bananas.  Utilitarian.

Never content to leave a good thing alone, you know I have to embellish and tailor everything to my tastes.  I found a pretty tasty-sounding recipe for an Banana and Apple bread on FoodandWine.com and I just so happened to have a couple mushy bananas, a Granny Smith and a pear that needed using.  So on a typical fall Sunday, in lieu of a pot of chili bubbling away on the stove, I had a loaf of delicious Banana-Apple-Pear bread rising in my oven.

Banana-Apple-Pear Bread

(adapted from Melissa Murphy’s recipe at FoodandWine.com)

Ingredient Rollcall:

  • 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 Granny Smith apple and one pear—peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 shots of espresso (optional)
  • 1 dash of Triple Sec (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of plain or vanilla yogurt (optional)

How it’s done:

  1. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the brown sugar. Add the apple, pear, espresso, and triple sec and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until tender and golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla and set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9-by-5-by-4 1/2 inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, nutmeg and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
  3. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the remaining stick of butter with the granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix until smooth. Add the mashed bananas, orange juice, yogurt and the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the dry ingredients in small increments and beat on low speed until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the apples and pears.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean; cover loosely with foil if the loaf becomes too dark. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely.

Cooking the apple and pear in espresso and triple sec adds an extra depth of flavor to the fruit and the yogurt contributes a little tang and moistness to the bread.  See, Travis, you can bake and improvise!  Really!  The more I can tell myself that, the likelier I am to step out of my banana bread comfort zone and get more than my toes wet in the deep end of baking.  Everyone starts with water wings, right?

New Brew: Hinterland Oktoberfest

16 Sep

As Matt (colleague over at Madison Beer Review) posted last week in his Friday Links (which spawned a brief discussion in the comments section), it did seem as though the Oktoberfest beers were out on shelves and on-tap in our favorite bars earlier than ever this year.  Maybe it was just the late summer heat clouding our memories and confusing our internal calendars.  Either way, Oktoberfests are here to stay for the next couple of months as a favorite fall seasonal in the German heritage-heavy Upper Midwest.  Wisconsin brewers do a predictably good job with the style in general with New Glarus’ Staghorn (currently The Old Fashioned’s $2.50/pint beer of the month for September), Capital’s Oktoberfest, Tyranena’s Gemuetlichkeit (Gesundheit?!), and Central Waters’ Octoberfest some of my favorite local examples year in and year out.

A new (re-)entry into the Madison market this year, Green Bay Brewing Company’s Hinterland brand has made impressive in-roads with its novel packaging (German-style 16-ounce pints in 4-packs) and tap-lines, creating an admirable line-up including its much-beloved Luna Stout as well as Pale Ale, Amber, Cherry Wheat and Maple Bock.  Oktoberfest debuts as their fall seasonal, a fitting tribute to its German roots.  As the days get noticeably shorter, the air catches a chill and weekend mornings and afternoons become dominated by football, the rich maltiness and smooth drinkability of Oktoberfestbier can hardly be beat.

Hinterland Oktoberfest

Style: Oktoberfest/Märzen

Vitals: n/a; Hinterland’s beers are woefully underdocumented on the innerwebs.

Company line: “Lightly filtered, deep golden brown, very malty and lightly hopped. Velvet smooth mouthfeel with rich grainy flavorhinterlandbeer.com”

My take: pours a light golden amber under a loose, foamy head that quickly fizzles to a spotty film.  Aroma is rich with caramel and bready malts, lightly nutty, with a dash of herbal hops and a faint metallic whiff.  Palate is malt-heavy, per the style with layers of caramel, biscuit, and grain husk  on the mid-palate offset by an apt touch of slightly grassy hops that carry through on the finish.  Starts off full-bodied and finishes light and crisp, encouraging sessionability.

Another fine example of the venerable style to add to a solid Wisconsin roster.  Hinterland is quickly becoming a welcome addition to the local beer scene with a growing line-up of well-made beers that do the Fox Valley and Wisconsin as a whole proud.  Whether you can boast German heritage or not (REINke in the house, y’all!), the beers of Oktoberfest make the impending deep freeze all the more bearable and are one more reason why autumn, however brief an appearance it makes ’round these parts, is my favorite season in Wisconsin.

Cookout Co-Pilot: Broccoli-Apple Salad

3 Sep

With summer cookout season winding down, I joined fellow Forkfuller Lindsay and an assemblage of Madison’s W.A.S.T.E.D. crew for a wine tasting themed on pairings with grilled meats and veggies (Verdict: anything from Torrontes to Brut Rose Cava to Shiraz hits the spot with heat and meat).   The grillables – including t-bone steaks, chicken breasts, pork chops (YUM!) and a host of veggie-friendly items – were graciously provided by the host, so we guests were tasked with summery sides.  Lindsay brought an amazing heirloom tomato salad with a creamy dressing spiked with blue cheese while others notable sides included a spinach salad, carrot-ginger salad, and creamy white-bean hummus.

Earlier this summer, I took my first crack at a broccoli slaw/salad similar to what I detail below (minus the apples) and was smitten by its sweet-savory, creamy-crunchy dichotomy.  Granny Smith apples bring extra crunch and a hint of sweet/tartness to the party while the addition of dried cranberries and walnuts act as a hat-tip to the comforting dishes the impending cool weather brings to my table.

Broccoli-Apple Salad

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 3 heads of broccoli, broken down into small florets, stems peeled and diced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 2 strips of bacon, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • dollop of dijon mustard
  • splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • dashes of tarragon, thyme, garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I did it:

  • Heat minced bacon in large skillet over medium heat until fat begins to render out.  Add broccoli florets, stems, and minced onion, season with salt, and heat for 4-5 minutes until broccoli just starts to soften around the edges.  Remove to large mixing or serving/storage bowl to cool.
  • Mix in diced apple, dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts.
  • To prepare dressing, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, sugar and spices and whisk until smooth.
  • Add dressing with broccoli-apple mixture and stir until well-incorporated.  Refrigerate until cool and serve with your favorite flame-charred meats or un-meats.

Check out this post and lots of other fantastic foodie content at Forkful of News.

Summer, Meet Autumn: Squash-Pumpkin-Chicken Curry with Cilantro-Poblano Rice

20 Aug

Along with chipotle peppers, curry has become a staple flavor profile in ever-expanding repertoire.  From curried French toast to curried fried chicken and waffles, I’ve yet to meet a favorite dish that didn’t take well to my curry-fication.

Us Wisconsinites were spoiled this past week with a couple days of marvelous early-Autumn-like weather with just the tiniest chill in the air.  After the swampy, oppressively hot couple of weeks prior, it was a welcome respite and preview of my favorite but far-t00-short season in Wisconsin.  It also reminded me that I had a bunch of acorn squash and white pumpkin in my freezer, CSA leftovers that I used to make a delicious curried soup with crispy kale this past winter.  Longing for those comforting flavors, but not quite ready for a steaming bowl of soup, I decided to make a simple chicken curry incorporating my leftover winter bounty.  A refreshingly zippy pairing of cilantro and poblano pepper-infused rice helps this dish bridge the late-August gap between sweltering Summer and fair-weather Fall.

Sqush, Pumpkin, and Chicken Curry with Cilantro-Poblano Rice

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 3-4 Chicken thighs, deboned and cut into 1in x 1in pieces
  • 1 cup jasmine or basmati rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • Squash and/or pumpkin, roasted and mashed (I used leftover acorn squash and white pumpkin from a soup I made this winter, which I had frozen in some zip-top bags)
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, julienned
  • 1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp tandoori seasoning
  • dash of ground chipotle powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I do it:

  • Prepare cilantro-poblano rice liquid by combining water, cilantro, half of the poblano pepper, pinch each of salt and curry powder and blend until smooth.
  • Prepare base sauce for curry by combining chicken stock, ~1 cup of squash/pumpkin mash, tomato, half of the onion, Indian spices, salt and pepper and blending until smooth.
  • Rub chicken thighs with mix of curry, garam masala, tandoori, pinch of salt and pepper.
  • In large saute pan (or your trusty cast iron skillet), heat olive oil over medium heat and saute the other half of the minced onion, poblano pepper and garlic for a minute or two until softened.
  • Add chicken and saute until browned, 5-8 minutes.
  • Add curried squash puree along with another half cup or so of the mashed squash/pumpkin to pan and cook, uncovered for 20-25 minutes, until sauce has thickened.
  • Now would be a good time to start the rice – heat cilantro-poblano water until boiling, reduce heat, add rice and cook as directed.  For my jasmine rice, 20 minutes is about right.
  • Fluff rice with a fork and serve  aside squash-pumpkin-chicken curry.  Bask in the cross-seasonal glory.

Check out this post and other great foodie content from my friends at Forkful of News.

Five Years, So Many Beers: A 2010 Great Taste of the Midwest Retrospective

18 Aug

Bow to the Beer

Another year, another Great Taste in the books.  2010 marked my 5th consecutive year attending the granddaddy of regional beer festivals.  With my Wooden Anniversary has come a new perspective on the fest as well as a different plan-of-attack, or more accurately – lack-thereof.

After a few years of arriving in-line early enough to be among the first few dozens of entrants, allowing for plenty of time to scour the program and plot a course and schedule special releases, recent years have devolved into more of a wander until something catches your eye or your beer is empty and you spot the nearest vacant booth strategy.  In my advanced age (I’m 26 – yeah, I know – shut up already, kid) I just can’t be bothered to join the crush and wait 15 minutes in the cattle line for another sample of Dark Lord or its ilk. I’ve had it, it’s great, but there are hundreds of other beers that I haven’t tried and likely never will if not at this fest.

Trying to carouse with and/or guide a growing list of friends, beer acquaintances and roommates also made it tough to stick to any coherent route or schedule.  Sure, I missed a lot of fun and rare special releases from the heavy-hitters like Surly, Founders, Three Floyd’s and the like, but I also stumbled upon some hidden gems from lesser-known breweries that I had yet to discover and at this point in my Great Taste career, frankly, that’s just more appealing.  Anyhow, on to my impressions from this 24th iteration of the Great Taste of the Midwest:

Trends:

Sour grains – Every brewer and their brother brought a sour beer or 3 to this years fest.  Certainly, the modern beer nerd’s palate has grown much more accommodating to the funkier side of brewing in recent years.  I’ve made it a point to head straight for the Real Ale tent when I enter the fest the past couple of years as some of the more interesting recent offerings have poured from these gravity-fed, softly-carbonated, slightly-warmer vessels.  My first beer of the fest this year was a cask gueze from Kuhnhenn Brewing out of Warren, MI.  It fell a bit flat, both in tongue-twisting funk and carbonation, but it was fun to see American craft brewers tackle this challenging Belgian farmhouse lambic style (unfortunately, I missed New Glarus’ R&D Gueuze, which seemed to be a resounding success).  Plenty of buzz surrounded Brugge Brasserie’s sour offerings, especially Pooka, their boysenberry sour (which I regrettably missed) and their secret, by-request-only Spider, which rivaled New Belgium’s La Folie in the masochistic acetic acid tongue-torture quotient.

Smoke in the water – Another modern trend in craft brewing has brought rauchbier into the relative mainstream.  Once a German niche, smoked beers are more and more prevalent every season and its a movement I fully endorse.  Minneapolis’ Town Hall Brewery brought a Smoked Hefeweizen this year that struck a nice balance between rich, meaty smoke and the light body and fruity esters you expect from a German-style weizen.  I also managed to stumble upon Blind Tiger Brewery in Topeka, KS, who brought its GABF Gold Medal-winning Smokey the Beer. Smokey didn’t disappoint with a light, crisp body billowing with smoky goodness.  One of my overall favorites from the fest and perhaps only my second sample at the Real Ale tent after crashing the gates was Fat Heads Brewery’s (Ohio) Smoke and Burn Porter – a version of their Up in Smoke Porter aged in bourbon barrels with chipotle peppers.  Smoke and heat in one beer?  SOLD.

Honey/Crisp – Meads and Ciders have long had a presence at the taste with standout examples from Wisconsin’s own White Winter Winery and AEppelTreow Winery often being some of the more memorable and palate-soothing samples I enjoy.  Michigan’s B. Nektar Meadery has added to the stand-out mead presence in recent years as well.  This year, Kentucky’s Cumberland Brewery brought a refreshing Huckleberry Meade and I know I tipped a few other passable meads from other enterprising breweries this past weekend.

Hits:

  • Fat Heads Cask Smoke and Burn Bourbon Barrel Chipotle Porter
  • O’so Spike’s Maple Sap – brewed with 100% maple sap instead of water and aged on maple chips.  Like drinking maple butterscotch, but in a good way
  • Titletown India Ink – super roasty black IPA doesn’t hold back with the schwaarzbier-esque malt profile and a nice piney hop character
  • Central Waters Brewhouse Coffee Stout – if you haven’t had this yet, FIX THAT.  Purest coffee flavor in a beer I’ve ever experienced.  I ended my taste with a full 8oz pour to facilitate the post-fest wake-up process.

Misses:

  • Ill-conceived sour beers – just because you can throw some wild yeast in a tank doesn’t mean you should.  These beers are intricate and finnicky and take years of practice and honed technique to get right.  We don’t need every Brewpub ‘N Steakhaus inflicting their infected experiments on us.  Use them in your house salad vinaigrette and leave these to the experts until you’re ready. /endrant
  • Peanut butter beers – more of them every year, still yet to try one that wasn’t either ‘meh’ or ‘blech!’
  • Giant tasting glasses – It’s an attractive little mini-stein that I will be happy to use for personal tastings and sharing big beers, but it’s just too damn big for a beer fest of this nature.  Too many generous 7oz pours that I had to dump on the ground for my own health.  As soon as I saw it I knew it was going to be trouble.

Check out this post, and LOTS of other great Wisconsin beer content over at Madison Beer Review.

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