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Beer

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Month is Oktoberfest?

October 1, 2015

Glass Beer Steins | UncommonGoods

Around the world, Oktoberfest is synonymous with beer, brass bands, free-flowing beer, jolly men in lederhosen, hearty German fare, and…strong, stick-to-your-ribs, autumnal beer. Over 200 years old, the Munich Oktoberfest has grown into a huge harvest celebration of Bavarian culture, starting the third week in September and…What the fest?! Have the Bavarians lost their murmeln? Isn’t Oktoberfest in October?

While it does wrap up on the first Sunday in October, the majority of Oktoberfesting occurs in September. Is there a method to this madness? Of course! Simply put, September weather is more conducive to the many open-air activities of Oktoberfest (with nightly lows in Munich around 50 °F, versus the chilly 40 °F of October). The first ‘Fest began on October 12, 1810, with the festive marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. But the annual autumn festival that grew out of those royal nuptials shifted to take advantage of September’s temperatures—more comfortable for strolling (or stumbling) about in Lederhosen and Dirndl dresses. And, despite the calendar, the name Oktoberfest stuck because “Late Septemberfest” just doesn’t have the same ring to it…

Glass Beer Steins – Set of 2 | $60

The Uncommon Life

5 Beer & Food Pairings That Will Rock Your Summer

July 29, 2015

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Last summer I created the Home Brew Journal; a journal that brings back the simplicity of logging craft beer recipes with ink and paper. The more I researched about hops, yeast, beer styles and other formulas for the journal, the more I learned about the art of making beer. There is still a lot to learn, but once I started to understand more about beer styles, choosing the right beer for the right meal became a lot easier.

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With the number of craft breweries booming around the country, it is safe to say that pairing beer with food is a newer concept than pairing wine with food. Wine and beer are not the same thing so there in no point in comparing them. This is what I know from personal experience; well-crafted beers offer a wide range of truly unique flavors and aromas. Hoppy, malty, fruity, chocolaty, earthy, citrus, sour, the list goes on. America (and the world) has been through a food revolution in the last few decades and the craft beer industry followed by creating unique beer flavors to go alongside the delicious food truck fish taco or a Vietnamese chicken salad.

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     Image via Brewers Association 

 

Flavors, Aromas & Ingredients

Some brewers understand the ingredients so well that if you close your eyes and just smell the beer, it smells almost like food. I was lucky enough to try a PB&J Brown Ale by Catawba Brewing Co. in North Carolina that literally smelled like the real sandwich. A brew like that definitely has split opinions about it but I loved it. Not to mention the Rogue Sriracha Hot Stout, or their Voodoo Doughnut series (Pretzel Raspberry & Chocolate Ale, Lemon Chiffon Crueller Ale, Bacon Maple Ale.)

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Because of the complexity of each ingredient necessary to make beer, it’s possible to find a beer that will fit your personal preference. Often times than not, flavors and aromas come from the basic ingredients themselves. If you pick up a citrus aroma, it’s likely from the hops. Biscuity flavor probably comes from malts. Clove notes are likely from the yeast. The combinations are endless, that’s why many brewers usually keep a logbook of their brewing experiments. But…

How many types of beer are there?

Two. Ales and lagers. The difference between them is the yeast strain used during the fermentation process. Lager yeasts require colder fermentation temperatures which results in a “cleaner” and “crisper” flavor than ale yeasts. Warmer fermentation temperatures produce beers that are usually high in esters and other fermentation by-products. These by-products can be both desired or undesired depending on the beer style.

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Beer styles

Now it’s time to keep an open mind and try different beer styles until you find a few styles that you really like. The Beer Pop Chart is a beautiful graphic representation of beer styles and their break down. For example, the Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA is a double IPA; that is part of the India Pale Ale category; that’s part of Pale Ale style and that is a type of Ale. (pff after this I need a beer myself!)

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If you would like to know more about beer styles, I strongly recommend downloading the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines. There’s a pdf version and an app. That is a great resource with detailed notes on aroma, appearance, flavor, mouthfeel, overall impression and history of each style.

For this article, I will focus on beer styles that are more popular during the summer time. While lighter beers are more popular during the warmer months, slightly darker beers pair really well with smoky and grilled flavors. Think Maibock, Munich Dunkel, American Brown Ale. These malty-forward, medium body, moderate carbonation and relatively low hop bitterness beers will enhance the flavors of grilled steak and roasted pork like a champ.

The Pairings

I like how Mark Dredge, author of Beer and Food, approaches beer and food pairing. It’s a concept easy to remember. Here it is: Bridge, Balance, or Boost. That’s it. You wouldn’t want to overpower a fillet of fish on lemon butter sauce with an imperial stout for example.

To bridge is to find similarities between the food and the beer. The brown ale and grilled steak is a good example. The roastiness of the beer harmonizes well with the burnt flavors of the steak.

To balance is to avoid flavors to overpower themselves. That’s why India Pale Ales go so well with French fries. It’s because the smooth alcohol warmth balances well with fatty and salty dishes.

To boost is to enhance flavors of both the food and the beer. It’s probably easier to understand the beer style before trying to pick the food to go with your pint. For some reason, strawberry enhances the sweetness of chocolate so a creamy sweet stout would pair really well with homemade strawberry pie.

I know this is all probably a lot of information to digest at once, so to make a long story short: here are 5 summertime beer and food pairings to try before fall season rolls in.

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[Boost] Tacos & Session IPA
Session beers vary between 3 – 5% alcohol by volume. That means you can drink more without getting too… buzzed. A “standard” IPA varies between 5 – 7.5% ABV, while double IPAs fall between 7.5 – 10%. Sometimes the high bitterness and dry finish of a standard or double IPA overpowers the creaminess and freshness of some Mexican dishes like tacos or a chicken quesadilla.

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Beef, tortilla, salsa, cheese, guacamole and sour cream – that’s a typical taco. While the avocado and sour cream will balance the bitterness of the IPA; the smooth alcohol warmth, citrusy aroma and medium carbonation will boost the salsa spiciness. This is probably the most common beer and food pairing in America and it’s easy to understand why: it’s delicious!

[Bridge] Marinated Lemon Chicken & Belgian Wheat

Blue Moon is such a versatile beer. Brewed with orange peel and coriander, it’s an easy-drinking vastly available brew.

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There are numerous aromatic and flavor cross overs between the chicken and the Belgian Wheat beer. The orange peel and coriander aromas, with slight spicy notes from the Belgian yeast bridges really well with the texture of the chicken and the flavor of the lemon sauce.

[Balance] Pretzels and Cheese Dip & American Pilsner

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Salt balances bitterness and carbonation balances richness. The high carbonation the American Pilsner balances well with the chewy texture and bready flavor of the pretzels while the salty flavor of the cheese dip harmonizes well with the rounded bitterness of the beer.

[Balance] Caesar Salad & Blonde Ale

Blonde Ales are refreshing and Caesar Salad is a light dish. That makes this pairing a well-balanced option.

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The initial soft malty sweetness from the beer balances well with the Parmesan cheese from the salad, while the low hop aroma complements the freshness of the lettuce.

[Boost] French Fries w/ Cheese & Pale Lager

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The crisp and dry bitterness of this beer brings forward the saltiness and richness of the French fries. The refreshing low citrus hop aroma call for warm and fresh potato fries topped with cheese and salt.

Host Your Own Beer & Food Pairing Party

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If you are the kind of person who likes to host (and go) to themed events, the beer & food pairing party might be a good call for your next get together with friends. It’s different and that’s why people like it so much. At the end of the day everyone will have fun but here are a few tips to help you get started:

In case you feel like having the same pairings of this post, feel free to download all the signs here >>

blogcta-homebrew

Gift Guides

Have a Fröhliche UncommonGoods Oktoberfest!

October 13, 2014

Oktoberfest Song

Brew some beer. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Fill your stein. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Make today a celebration by design. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Fill your day (Oom-pa-pa!)
With the best. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Have a fröhliche UncommonGoods Oktoberfest!

There’s beer to taste,
And beer to tote,
And beer to take a bath in.
There’s beer to whiff,
And beer to wear,
And beer you try to splash in.

There’s cider, too,
And Moscow mules,
And even mead’s a-flowing.
So strap your lederhosen on,
And get this party going!
Oh, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho!

Grab a pint. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Grab a cup. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Grab some big ol’ Viking horn and fill it up. (Oom-pa-pa!)
Here’s a toast. (Oom-pa-pa!)
May you be blessed (Oom-pa-pa!)
With a fröhliche UncommonGoods Oktoberfest!

Oktoberfest Beer Gifts | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

B is For Beer, Breweries, Brooklyn, and Beyond!

October 13, 2014

While we’d like to claim that UncommonGoods’ home borough of Brooklyn is the single epicenter of beer culture in the US, that would be a slight to hotspots like Portland, San Diego, and Denver, not to mention lesser-known enclaves like Sussex County, Delaware or Western New York. But along with its important role in the craft beer revival, New York City does have a long history of brewing, longer than some other locales synonymous with craft beer today.

Wise Beer Growler | UncommonGoods

Wise Beer Growler

Breuckelen Brewing History

The first known brewery in the New World was in lower Manhattan, where two thirsty Dutch settlers established a brewhouse in the colony of New Amsterdam in 1612. As the island became more densely settled (and was reborn as New York) brewers started to relocate to the wide-open spaces uptown and across the East River in Brooklyn (“Breuckelen” in New Amsterdam days). Just over 300 years after that brewery beachhead, Brooklyn boasted nearly 50 active breweries, many founded by German-Americans capitalizing on the booming popularity of German-style lagers.

It’s no stretch to say that daily growlers of local beer (named for the grumbling stomachs of hungry workers) helped to build many New York landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge. Schaefer, founded in 1842 on a German lager recipe, built a new state-of-the art facility in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1915, keeping Brooklynites well-supplied for 60 years. Unlike many others, Schaefer survived the dry spell of Prohibition, but succumbed to the corporate forces of big national brewers like Anheuser Busch in the 1970s, throwing in the towel in 1976.

Currier and Ives Image of Brooklyn

‘The City Of Brooklyn’ print by Currier and Ives, 1879

It’s Alive!

Brewing in New York suffered in the ’70s and early ’80s, along with many other aspects of life in the Big Apple. But by 1984, signs of life emerged when former AP correspondent Steve Hindy teamed up with his Park Slope neighbor, Tom Potter, to found Brooklyn Brewery. From humble, DIY beginnings, they led the charge for a Brooklyn beer revival. Today, with an expanding facility in Williamsburg, not far from Schaefer’s former site, Brooklyn Brewery produces an impressive array of beers enjoyed throughout the region and nationwide.

Following Brooklyn Brewery’s success, other breweries have cropped up around the borough, offering more and more variety for beer lovers in Brooklyn and beyond. From the distinctive, genre-defying beers of Sixpoint (Red Hook), to the environmentally-conscious brews of Kelso (Fort Greene), to the sideshow chutzpah of Coney Island Brewing Company, Brooklyn is re-emerging as an East Coast center for craft brewing. In the big picture, there’s even more good news for brews: the Brooklyn revival is just one wave of an American craft beer resurgence. This year marks 3,000 breweries operating in the US—most of them microbreweries or nanobreweries like Brooklyn’s brewers—a level not seen in this country since 1870. Throughout the nation, a century of lost ground has been regained!

Wooden Beer Tote | UncommonGoods

Wooden Beer Tote with Bottle Opener

Beer is Culture

Sixpoint Brewery’s motto, “Beer is Culture” may be the perfect phrase to encompass the role of beer in Brooklyn today. Beer’s role in Brooklyn life isn’t just relegated to the proliferation of craft breweries; there are scores of multiple tap beer pubs, specialty stores like Bierkraft in Park Slope, beer history tours and tastings led by Urban Oyster and others, and numerous spots where you can fill up a growler with a dizzying variety of craft beers from all points on the map. And that’s just one borough of the metropolis where beer has been part of the local culture for over 400 years.

Cheers!

Indulge in some hoppy goodness with the help of our favorite beer gifts, or learn more about the history of brewing by visiting the sources we used for this post: BeerHistory.com, Brooklyn Brewery/History,Schaefer Beer/History, The Buffalo News

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: Decoding the Perfect Pour

August 26, 2014

Kris, Danny, & HTML Glasses

Product: HTML Beer Glasses

Research:
I first saw UG’s HTML Beer Glasses in our warehouse – a shipment had just arrived and a few units were pulled out for our Receiving team to quality check. I had no idea what they were for. Honestly, my first thought was, “Why would anyone want a beer glass with weird printing on it?” Then one of the guys explained to me that the idea behind the printing is to help create the perfect pour – ah-hah! That made a lot more sense. So, feeling a bit like an idiot, I researched the seemingly-simply-but-actually-intricate-act of…pouring a beer.

HTML Glasses on Instagram | UncommonGoods

Hypothesis:
My initial thoughts: I will likely learn way more about foam than I ever imagined. I will be able to pour a prettier beer, but with little effect on actual taste. I will take regrettable pictures of myself and co-workers “testing” various possible scenarios.

Experiment:
First step – Grab up various coworkers and head to our friendly neighborhood watering hole.
Second step – Make contact with helpful bartender, Mike. Tell him of our educational needs.
Final step – Drink and make merry!

We headed to the Irish Haven in Sunset Park, Brooklyn for their weekly “Taco Tuesday” night. Despite the busyness, Mike was quite cheerful about both discussing our cool glasses and letting us know how they worked. He poured an IPA into one of our HTML Glasses and a Belgian Wheat beer in the other. Both poured perfectly in line with the glass’s indicators, though we were quick to note a difference after the pour.

HTML Glasses Full | UncommonGoods

Taking a tall drink by bar light is great; taking photos by bar light, not so much.

Turns out, given the height and shape of these glasses, they should be used for ales or lagers. The tall, thin style will keep them colder longer, and the relatively light head those beers come with will be well-showcased by the lean shape. Lighter beers will evaporate more quickly. Something like a good quality ale will work fine in this glass, but when you go lighter, like the Belgian we tried, it will evaporate too quickly and the head will be lost. If pouring a “sturdier,” heavier beer, it would make sense to have a wider glass, as this will allow the beer to breathe more. Those beers tend to have heavier foaming characteristics anyway, so one has to worry less about the head evaporating.

HTML Glasses | UncommonGoods

Mike explained that the quality of the beer also matters. The better the beer, the better the pour, the better the taste. If we poured a typical American ale into one of these glasses, it would likely not retain a good amount of foam on top, regardless of the quality of the pour or the quality of the glasses.

Conclusion:
Beer, in all its forms, is wonderful. But if you want to get the perfect pour of high quality lager or ale, these glasses will show you the way with style.

The Uncommon Life

6 Heatmaps: Beer Guzzlers, Baby Makers, Hipsters & More!

August 16, 2013

Bryan, our Business and Analytics Associate (aka the guy who’s computer screen always looks like The Matrix to most of us) recently stumbled upon a Gothamist article  regarding Yelp creating a hipster heat map. (Yes. You read that right. A map tracking hipsters. You probably haven’t heard of it.) It’s a map where a digital inkblot pops up and becomes deeper in color on a certain location where reviewers would mention the word “hipster.” Williamsburg was, of course, the deepest and biggest blob Yelp found. But to their surprise, there was a pretty hefty dot on 28th and Broadway, not the most hipster-esque place one would think of. To see if he’d run into any surprises himself,  Bryan decided to have a little fun and create his very own UncommonGoods heat maps using items purchases in select product categories. The topics he touched on were baby makers (baby), beer guzzlers (beer), lovely newlyweds (wedding gifts), and of course he wasn’t about to skip the holy hipsters (hipster).

BEER GUZZLERS: Beer products for our beer lovers.

It’s no surprise that Hoboken and Turtle Bay are full of dudes (and dudettes) who love to chug the brew. They’re prime places for up-and-comers in the business world to start their commute to the financial district. Who doesn’t need a cold one after a long day in finance?

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Fargo-Moorhead is also home to a bunch of beer lovers. We figure the extreme temperatures in NoDak and MN are to blame. Hot in the summer? Cool off with a frosty mug of ice cold beer. Freezing in the winter? Enjoy the magical warming properties of alcohol.

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LOVELY NEWLYWEDS: Wedding gifts for the lovebirds out there.

Philly sure knows how to put a ring on it. The city of Brotherly Love has couples falling in love left and right.

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BABY MAKERS: Baby gifts for the lil’ ones.

San Francisco: the land of love, or just a whole lotta lovin’?

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For all its remoteness, there’s a lot of baby makin’ (or gift-buying) going on in North Pole, Alaska.

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 HOLY HIPSTERS: Gifts bought under our “hipster gifts” category. 

Williamsburg loses the hipster crown and hands it over to the Fort Greene & Park Slope area. Want to tell them or shall we?

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This post was, appropriately, written by Emily (an “I’m not a hipster” hipster), Bryan (a newlywed), and Cassie (a beer lover originally from Fargo-Moorhead.)

The Uncommon Life

Our Homemade Beer Tasting Brew-haha

June 13, 2013

Some believe that Plato said, “It was a wise man who invented beer.” While Plato probably never actually said that, and we don’t know who exactly came up with the ingenious idea to turn cereal into booze, we do know how to make beer. Or I should say, we learned, thanks to our exclusive Craft a Brew Beer Brewing Kits.

To make sure our educational experience was comprehensive, we decided to test each of our new home brew flavors by comparing them during an in-office beer tasting; but first, we had to wrangle some brewers.

The Brewers

Warehouse Operations Coordinator Bradley cooked up a batch of Southern Bourbon Stout, Product Development Associate Sarah celebrated her home state with the Texas Chipotle Amber, Marketing Analyst Kira revisited beer making by giving the West Coast IPA a try, and Marketing Analyst Matt tapped into his inner lumberjack by bottling some Vermont Maple Porter.

The goal was to keep this competition fair and balanced, but Brad did make an attempt to pick up some bonus points by adding a personal touch to his finished product. Kira went another route and, knowing that the way to a beer judge’s heart is through the stomach, brought some homemade pretzels. (She insists that these were for the purpose of palate cleansing between sips, and were no way intended as a bribe.)

There is also some suspicion that two of the contestants may have been in cahoots.

While it wasn’t too hard to get the brewers on board, recruiting judges was almost too easy. (Apparently, people jump at product testing opportunities when they involve delicious adult beverages.)

The Judges

Copywriter Stephanie, Director of Marketing Brian, and Systems Administrator Paul agreed to sample the goods.

With beer flavor checklists in hand, the judges tried each carbonated creation. Here are some beer basics discovered during the tasting.

West Coast IPA
Kira’s brewing tip: “Be Tall. It’s hard to pour things!” You have to place the strainer on top of a funnel on top of the carboy, so a step stool (or a short table) may be required to help shorter folks make beer with ease.

Judges’ Notes: Stephanie said “it definitely smells like an IPA,” but upon tasting said that this IPA “isn’t super hoppy.” She commented on notes of “citrus” and described the flavor as “75 degrees and sunny.” The beer was served cold, though. Just for clarification, the IPA could be described as tasting like a summer’s day.

Brian agreed that the beer “tastes like California,” and said that it may be a good choice for someone who doesn’t love IPAs, since it’s not too “IPA-ie.”

Texas Chipotle Amber
Sarah’s Brewing Tip: “It’s a weekend project, because it does take a while to set up.”

Judges’ Notes: Brian called this brew “ridiculously good,” “smokey and spicy,” and “interesting.” Paul agreed with the interesting comment, and added that it was “fresh,” and had “a hook…not a gimmick.”

Stephanie also called out the unique spiciness of the beer, and said she was a fan of the “big, bold Texas flavor.”

Southern Bourbon Stout
Bradley’s Brewing Tip: “Malt, grains, and patience.” He also reminded us that his kit took a little longer to brew, on account of the extra step of soaking oak chips in bourbon to infuse the beer.

Judges’ Notes: Paul was near-ecstatic about the subtle, unexpected sweetness of this stout. He described it as “almost like eating cookie dough.” Brian agreed that it was sweeter than expected, but said that though the smell was intense, like a “shot of vanilla,” the actual taste held a “multitude of flavors.”

The judges agreed that the bourbon taste was there, but it wasn’t overpowering.

Vermont Maple Porter

Matt’s Brewing Tip: “Read the instructions before you start, and make sure to sanitize everything.” Matt’s tip came about after a bit of a brewing faux pas. It turns out, that his inner lumberjack was actually neglected–he forgot to add the maple syrup.

Judges’ Notes: “It’s hard to judge accurately without the syrup,” said Stephanie. But, despite the porter’s syrup-less-ness, she called it “creamy,” “very malty,” and “smooth drinking.”

Brian didn’t appreciate the deviation from the recipe. “Matt’s renegade style often gets him in trouble,” he said. “This is another example of that.”

Paul was also unhappy with the not-maple porter, and decided to add some syrup after the fact. This improvisation is not recommended.

When the flights were finally empty, the judges all agreed on a favorite. While the Bourbon stout was a close second and “equally as good [taste-wise as the winner],” according to Brian, the champion was the Texas Chipotle Amber, which is “more memorable.”

Sarah took home the prize (which is the knowledge that she chose the beer kit the judges liked best) and all involved in our brew-haha finished the remaining spicy chipotle, (sans) maple porter, subtly sweet stout, and refreshing IPA.

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Stay Chill & Kick Back Cold Ones

June 11, 2013

Research
I was already familiar with the Corkcicle, but was excited to hear of the introduction of the Chillsner— a stainless steel tool you freeze and then put in your beer, juice, or soda.

Hypothesis
My hope is that my beverage remains cold, even if I get distracted playing video games.

Experiment
I have to admit I was a little skeptical about using the Chillsner. Also I was a little nervous my lips would get stuck to it, due to the Chillsner’s time in the freezer. So on the first night, I put the product in the freezer for an hour. (The instructions call for 45 minutes.) I took it out and stuck it in the bottle, but not following the instructions, I spilled some of my beer because I didn’t take a sip first. Stupid physics.

The first attempt worked pretty well, even though I purposely put the Chillsner in a warm beer, and it cooled it pretty quickly. Yum.

The next night, the Chillsner had been in the freezer for 24 hours. My lips still didn’t get stuck. Also I made sure not to spill my beer. It kept my chilled beer chilled as I nursed it for an hour and a half. Normally I don’t take this long to drink a beer, but sacrifices must be made in the name of science.

Conclusion
Overall, I was pleased. My beer stayed cold for much longer than I was used to. I look forward to using the Chillsner this summer.

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