Posts Tagged ‘craft beer’

This past week I had the honor of being flown to Charleston, SC to attend an all-expense-paid, super special beer dinner co-hosted by the Culinary Institute of Charleston and Samuel Adams.

beer menu

There were several highlights of the night –one of which included meeting and conversing with the phenomenal team of chefs from the Culinary Institute of Charleston. The food and the beer were obviously major highlights as well.

But hands down, the ultimate highlight of the entire evening was the opportunity to meet, interview and talk beer (and other non-beer topics) with Sam Adam‘s Head Brewer, Bob Cannon. And get this — he not only sat at MY TABLE, but also sat RIGHT. NEXT. TO. ME.


And let me just tell you, Bob is one heck of a guy. He is extremely personable and an amazing conversationalist. I could have talked with him for hours upon hours … upon hours … upon hours (and so on and so forth).

Prior to the actual event, I was sent an invitation that listed the various courses and pairings for the beer dinner. Other than knowing the tentative list of food & beers, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the evening.


Needless to say, any expectations that I may have even remotely had were completed exceeded by both The Culinary Institute of Charleston and Sam Adams. The Culinary Institute was beautifully decorated and the table settings were simple, yet effective.

I arrived at the event early with my good friend Lain Bradford. Almost immediately upon entering the building, we were both introduced to Bob Cannon. Even though I didn’t believe him at first, I was very humbled to have learned that Bob had actually heard about me and my blog prior to the event. (Apparently, “The Beer Wench” was a brief topic of conversation at the Great American Beer Fest … who woulda thunk?)

Bob was kind enough to allow both Lain and myself interview him. The footage will be released in the near future.

And now without further ado, allow me to present my Sam Adams Beer Dinner RECAP through the use of visual media …

Disclaimer: the following video is the first of its kind to be released on my blog. I used a FLIP camera to record myself prior to the start of the dinner. Ummm … enjoy?

Okay, so I might need a wee bit o’ practice in the self-video department.

Let us move on to the nitty gritty.

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Upon entering the doors to the Culinary Institute of Charleston, guests were immediately “bombarded with beer. We were forced to sample the Samuel Adams Pils and the Samuel Adams Ale.

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We were asked to vote which one we preferred best. And you will NEVER guess in a million years what The Wench voted for … 🙂

(If you even need to ask, then you are not stalking me well enough — tisk tisk)

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Soft pretzels and whole grain mustard and beer is a natural pairing. These delicious knots of joy were a slam dunk with the Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

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This was our modest cheese spread. Only about 5 pounds worth per guest …

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Super sexy close-up of the cheese. Ohhhhhhh yeah.

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That was some seriously coagulated casein. I’m drooling just looking at the picture.

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Mmmmmmm beer.

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Adobe chicken wings and livers. To die for. Really.

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Mussels steamed in garlic & Boston Lager. Absolutely delicious!

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The Beer Wench and Chef David Vagasky — the brilliantly talented chef behind all of the appetizers.

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The simple, yet completely perfect center piece.

The spit bucket was just for decoration.

I don’t think anyone  actually used it …

The table confetti consisted of two types of barley and dried hops leaves — which I proceeded to chew on at the end of the meal. HEY, hops are good for digestion. Among other things 🙂

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The Beer Wench with Chef Ben Black — the other brilliantly talented chef responsible for the amazing appetizer spread!

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The Salad Course: Shrimp and Citrus Salad paired with Samuel Adams Summer Wheat Ale.

The salad was super light and refreshing and the beer complimented it extremely well.

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The First Entree Course: Cajun red snapper with Texas caviar and mango salad with a mango Irish Red reduction. This was paired with Samuel Adams Irish Red Ale.

I loved this course. I would almost argue that it was my favorite. The Irish Red Ale was definitely my favorite beer of the night, hands down. (It is also Bob Cannon’s favorite SA beer)

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The Second Entree Course: Salmon Nicoise — Fennel crusted salmon atop a nicoise olive & haricot vert salad finished with a reduction of whole grain mustard and paired with Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

This dish was very tasty and the salmon was cooked perfectly. Samuel Adam’s Boston Lager is one of the only American Lagers that I actually enjoy.


The Third Entree Course: Pan-seared SA Blackberry Wit Muscovy duck breast with blackberry-lemon gastrique and griddled Anson Mills hoe cake paired with Sam Adams Blackberry Wit.

The duck was out of this world. This was also the first time I tried the SA Blackberry Wit — and needless to say, I was impressed. Light & fruity. Perfect pair for this dish.

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The Fourth Entree Course: Hold onto your seats for this one, kids.

Kobe beef short ribs braised in SA Cream Stout atop a bed of roasted garlic buttermilk mashed potatoes and paired with Sam Adams Cream Stout.

This dish was absolutely pornographic. The cream stout was rich, thick and oooohhh so creamy.

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The Fifth Entree Course: Sam Adams Black Lager & chocolate ancho chile rubbed lamb ribs paired with Sam Adams Black Lager.

Ridiclous. Absolutely ridiculous.

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The Dessert Course: Paired with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

Part 1 = Apple walnut & cream stout tart

Part 2 = Malted chocolate gelato with macerated cherries, vanilla bean creme fraiche and SA Cherry Wheat foam.

I completely devoured both desserts. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if pictures of me licking the plate surfaced.The cherry wheat complimented both deserts very nicely. It was not too sweet and slightly tart.



This is the strongest beer in the entire world. It is roughly 27.5 %ABV. It is only produced every two years — and will run yo about $200 bucks a bottle.

And what does The Wench have to say about it?

Wow. Just … wow.

I am still speechless.

Well, folks. That is all the photos I have to share from the event. The event was almost too enjoyable that I forgot all about taking pictures.

BIG THANKS go out to both Samuel Adams and The Culinary Institute of Charleston for putting on such an amazing event and allowing me to be a part of it. I had a tremendously wonderful time. The food was amazing and the beers were spectacular — but it truly was the people who made the event as enjoyable as it was.


I am still speechless.


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True story: I am an Ohio State Alumni, ex-two-sport Ohio State Athlete … and an obsessive Buckeye Football fan.

And if you know anything about Ohio State, know this: We Don’t Give A Damn For The Whole State Of M*CH*GAN.


Unfortunately, though … The Beer Wench cannot ignore the abundance of amazing craft breweries located in ” That State Up North.”

One such brewery is Bell’s.


Bell’s Brewery is the oldest craft-brewer east of Boulder, Colorado.

Formerly known as Kalamazoo Brewing Company, Bell’s Brewery Inc. was founded by Larry Bell in 1983. Larry initially opened a home-brewing supply shop, which became a brewery by default. Its first beer was sold in 1985.


Bell’s story is very similar to that of many craft breweries – small production in a small facility with very little equipment. In the beginning, Larry Bell brewed his beers in a 15-gallon soup kettle, producing only 135 barrels a year. The tiny operation originally took place in a former plumbing supply warehouse. During the first four years, the Bell’s crew brewed, bottled and delivered all of the company’s beer to market themselves.

Larry Bell

Larry Bell

Things have definitely changed since then. Now Bell’s Brewery Inc. has over twenty years of brewing experience, the ability to produce over 90, 000 barrels of beer a year, owns a 60,000 square feet brewing facility with 24 acres … as well as makes some of The Wench’s all-time favorite beers.

Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, a Beer Wench staple

Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, a Beer Wench staple

On June 11, 1993, Bell’s Brewery, Inc. became the first Michigan brewery to serve beer by the glass to the public. Bell’s The Eccentric Cafe offers small batch brews that are not distributed outside of the pub as well as interesting food, an extensive collection of art and ephemera, and live music. I regret never visiting The Eccentric Cafe while I lived in Ohio (something in my blood would not let me cross the border).


Depending on how long you have been following my blog and whether or not you know me in person … you may or may not know that I love hops. I love love love love love hops. My palate loves bitter flavors. I am a fan of super tanic red wines, dark dark chocolate, espresso, black coffee … etc.

The Wench loves American craft IPAs. And I love love love Double IPAs. One of my favoriteDouble IPAs is Bell’s Hopslam.


Coming in around 10% ABV, one should never underestimate the power of Bell’s Hopslam. Unfortunately for its enthusiasts, Hopslam is a limited release ale – only released in January and February. In the past, Bell’s Hopslam has been hard to find … but as the brewery has become more successful and popular – I have seen a tremendous increase in Hopslam availability.

Each year, the recipe of Hopslam appears to change. In my opinion, last year had more flavors of malt & honey and was not as hoppy as the previous year. This year … however … may be different …


Style: American Double IPA

Brewery: Bell’s Brewing Inc.

Region: Kalamazoo (how cool is that name?!!) … in “That State Up North”

Color: Cloudy (as expected), golden amber with a small foamy white head

Carbonation: Normal. Decent head, lacing lingers till the end.

Aroma: Mmmm hops. Very dry and musty with a slight hint of grassy sweetness. Its aroma reminds me of the time I walked into the hops “cellar” in Victory Brewing company… total hops immersion! If there is malt in the beer, than I am none the wiser. The honey is virtually undetectable. Lots of pine and citrus rind. ABSOLUTELY loving the way this beer smells … mmmm heaven.

Flavor: Bam wam, thank you mam.Please sir, may I have another. PUNCH you in the face hops. I’m sorry Mr. Bell … but did you say that this ale has a 10% ABV. Well, heck if I can tell. This beer drinks as smooth, if not smoother, than mother’s milk. The honey comes out after a few sips … as the beer gets warmer the malt and sweetness is more apparent. But in the end, the hops dominate my tongue. Which is FINE BY ME.

Mouthfeel: Beautifully smooth, super graceful. It is VERY RARE to find a 10% beer that drinks this well. In fact, it drinks almost too well. I could easily take down a 6 pack of this without blinking an eye … although, after taking down a 6 pack I might not be blinking my eyes too well … haha.

Finish: AWESOME! Good job, Bell’s.

Pairings: CHEESE! Esp the aged ones … blue would be beautiful!

Comments: Since I am very familiar with Bell’s, I am confident in saying that this is one of the best batches of Hopslam that I have tasted. It is extremely similiar in profile to the Two-Hearted Ale, which is one of my all-time favorite beers EVER. I would really like to taste them side by side to confirm my conclusion. In my opinion, Hopslam is Two-Hearted taken to the next level.

According to my roommate … the lovely Miss Candace “It smells like moldy clothes – like say you left my wet clothes in the dyer for 5 days. The taste is lingering bitter … even after a sip of water. Let me taste it … OH HELL NO! I feel like I just ate someone’s moldy clothes.” Well, once again … to each their own, right?


On another note … the aroma of this beer is completely intoxicating. I suppose that hops is a very acquired taste, which is hard for me to understand since I love it so much. If I had my way, I would make a hops essence perfume and wear it all day. In fact, I wish there was a line of hops products … shampoos, conditioners, candles … soaps. Maybe my good friend Gwen, the brilliant founder and owner of BEYOND THE PICKET FENCE, will create a specialty soap using hops?


MORAL OF THE STORY: Go grab as much of Bell’s Hopslam as you can … while it is still available! Its high alcohol level allows it to age fairly well … but, it is also very drinkable at this moment! CHEERS!

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First off, let me define a craft brewery:

The Brewers Association, a Boulder, CO. based industry group, defines craft breweries as: Those that brew with only barley malts as opposed to cheaper substitutes such as rice and corn. Those that produce fewer than two million barrels per year. Those that are independently owned, with no more than 25 percent ownership by a larger brewer or importer.

According to the Brewers Association, craft brewery dollar sales have increased 58% since 2004, reaching $5.74 billion in sales last year. The Great Lakes Region – comprised of Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio – saw a 28.1 percent increase in sales from $54.4 million in 2006 to $69.6 million in 2007. The Southeast Region – comprised of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida – experienced the largest increase in sales, up 31.6 percent to $41 million in 2007.


However, craft beers still only account for a small segment of the overall beer category – about 4% of production and 6% of retail sales. Nearly 70% of craft breweries, defined by the Brewers Association as an independent brewer selling fewer than 2 million barrels and having at least 50% of its volume sold in malt beers, sell most or all of their beer on site.

With the craft beer segment growing as quickly as it has, some of the larger breweries are taking even more notice–either by acquiring smaller brands or creating their own small batch brands.


Craft brewers are starting to face higher commodity costs for ingredients such as hops and barley. The cost of barley, wheat and packaging materials has all gone up in the past year due to crop disease, drought and demand for alternative fuel ethanol which has enticed farmers to plant more acres of corn and less of everything else. In addition, hops is in short supply due to a drought.

Lucky for craft brewers, there are die-hards like me, ready to support them 100%. And by support, I mean buy and drink craft brews! Next time you drink beer, make it a craft.

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