Beer and cheese... Is there a combination more pleasing to the palate, more ambrosial than a fine craft beer and a piece of, say, aged gouda or maybe manchego? How about if you added a delicious slice of sausage to the mix? Now we're talking.
Three of mankind's greatest culinary achievements will be combined in just such a manner at A Pint, A Wedge, which takes place from 1-3 p.m., May 18 at Bernice Garden. The event is part of Craft Beer Week, and features beer from Arkansas Craft Distributors, cheese from Boulevard Bread Co. and sausage from Hillcrest Artisan Meats.
There will be live music from Judson and Josh Spillyards, Norman Williamson and Ryan Hitt. Tickets are $25 and you can purchase them at Boulevard's Heights location.
Bell just returned from Japan in late March, where he acquired his Advanced Sake Professional certification from the Sake Education Council. Only 109 people in the world have received this unique certification. During his first week in Japan, Bell traveled via bullet train to breweries throughout the country to taste varieties of sake. Each stop hosted a class led by the Sake Evangelist, John Gauntner. “So we had time to see the highest level of sake brewing in Japan,” Bell said to me over a glass of sake on my porch. “It was a treat, some of the breweries didn’t export to the US.”
The final exam asked Bell to answer questions like where a particular sake was brewed or what brewing steps were used for this another sake? Bell then traveled north to Tendō, a small town pocketed between Japan’s snowcapped mountains. He stayed there for two weeks and applied his advanced certification. “I tasted sake straight from the press and learned what’s bottled and what’s pasteurized,” he said. Fortunately for Bell, he experienced hands-on sake brewing, a real rarity, as he endured Tendō’s frigid winter. “The work was done mostly by hand and that’s where I broke my back. Really, my back is still sore,” he said, pointing at it. “Hours would pass and you would realize that the brewery was as cold inside as it was outside. We were essentially brewing in the snow.”
Since the 1980s, Japanese milling industries have advanced significantly in efforts to trim grains with more precision. “It’s not really about how much you can take off the grain, but about how much pure starch you can get from the grain,” Bell said. Milling methodologies have produced higher quality sake at the hazard of reeling in lower profits. Over the past two years, sake has evened out and slightly maneuvered itself back on the market, still straggling behind beer, wine, and liquor. It seems that American culture has slowly regained interests. Kind of like the arrival of European wine — Americans have gone from skepticism to fascination. Meanwhile, brewers in the US have been fishing for higher quality rice. Everyone’s waiting for that one pure grain.
Recently, Bell organized a tasting at Zin Urban Wine and Beer Bar. Good conversation unfolded as we surveyed six different sakes on display, including a bottle that Bell brought back from Japan. Over the next three months Zin Urban Wine and Beer Bar will host more sake tastings. If you would like a bottle before the next one, try Colonial Wines & Spirits, where Bell greatly expanded the sake selection during his tenure there.
I just got off the phone with Rose Cranson, owner and president of Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery, a company which was officially known as Vapor Valley Spirits until earlier this week, when they officially signed a lease with the National Parks Service that will allow them to renovate and retrofit the old Superior Bathhouse into a microbrewery and beer tasting room. The Superior is the bathhouse closest to the Arlington Hotel on Bathhouse Row.
Plans call for a small-batch brewery, a beer-only bar that will serve both Superior suds and those of Arkansas breweries, and a small restaurant serving light snacks that pair well with Liquid Bread. They also plan to make whiskey, brandy and rum on site using local or regionally-sourced ingredients.
Cranson is an Illinois native who moved to Hot Springs two years ago with her husband Todd, when he was hired as the director of the Hot Springs Music Festival. Todd Cranson will be head brewer and distiller at Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery. Long-time hobby brewers, they plan on using the thermal springs that once supplied water for the baths to brew beer. Rose Cranson said the water coming into the building at over 140 degrees will save energy, and contribute to their goal of being as sustainable and locally-sourced as possible.
Beer will be brewed in small, 210-gallon batches. They plan on selling mostly ales, with some stouts, their take on a Belgian saison and others in what Cranson called "the American craft tradition." Cranson said their recipes will rotate seasonally to match the weather. Though they will bottle some special recipes and offer small kegs at the brewery, Cranson said most Superior beers will only be available for sale on tap at the bathhouse. They plan on distributing their spirits to local liquor stores and bars.
Their equipment is being fabricated by a company in Maine as we speak, and Cranson said installation and troubleshooting will be done this summer. They plan on opening the brewery this fall, though Cranson said the beer tasting room will open and begin selling local craft beers before they begin brewing their own.
Lovers of the nog will definitely want to become acquainted with Mr. David Burnette, bartender at The Capital Bar and Grill. For a while now, Burnette has been concocting his personal egg nog recipe and his skill has certainly not gone unnoticed. He has won Little Rock’s “Nog Off” competition located at the Historic Arkansas Museum for the last two years is now considered by many to be the “King of Nog.”
I caught up with Burnette to ask him what makes his nog so exceptional. He was kind enough to not only clue me in on some secrets in creating a great egg nog, he even provided us with a recipe.
Burnette reminds me that egg being incorporated into cocktails is certainly not a new thing, many traditional cocktails call for at least part of an egg. Says he, “A Whiskey Sour or a Ramos Gin fizz, for example, use egg whites to add froth. A 'Flip’ is a traditional-style cocktail utilizing a whole egg, white and yolk, to create a frothy, creamy result.”
The Capital Bar and Grill will be serving their egg nog throughout the month of December, beginning on the 1st. You can purchase it at the bar or by the bottle ($15 per liter). Burnette’s nog can also be attempted at home by following his recipe as published here by Southern Living, where it was featured as one of last season’s best holiday recipes.
You can also see Burnette go toe-to-toe with other worthy egg noggers at this year’s 8th Ever Nog-Off at The Historic Arkansas Museum on Third St. in Little Rock. The event will be held on Friday, December 14th from 5-8 p.m. and is free to the public. The Capital Hotel will be up against a number of other competitors which include The Copper Grill and Loblolly Creamery.
(The Capital Bar and Grill is located within The Capital Hotel located at 111 W. Markham St., Little Rock)
Well unless you've been living under a rock, you may have heard a thing or three about the upcoming Arkansas Times Craft Beer Festival on November 2. The event runs from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. at the Argenta Farmers' Market at Sixth and Main streets in North Little Rock, and should be an excellent time for every lover of hops and malted barley. This week's Toast of the Town issue gave a nice overview of each brewery that is going to be serving up their wares at the festival, but I thought it might be helpful to give some recommendations for specific beers to try. After all, three hours isn't that long of a time, and there's a lot of suds to suck down before grabbing a taxi back home. So without further delay, here's the official Eat Arkansas guide to good beer, presented with the understanding that this is not an exhaustive list of the delicious brews available, but just some of my favorites.
Anchor Brewing: While Anchor is famous for their warm-fermented "steam" beer, it's the Anchor Porter that dark beer lovers should seek out. The porter is a full-bodied beer that tastes of cocoa and raisins, with nice toasted malt tones. Unlike some porters that have a tendency to get cloying, the Anchor Porter has good carbonation, providing a crispness that keeps the beer refreshing.
Brewery Ommegang: Fans of farmhouse ales (which I definitely am) should stop by this Cooperstown, NY brewery's booth for a taste of their Hennepin saison. Newcomers to the style will like the bright, golden beer, and veterans of farmhouse ales will be pleased with the tangy Belgian yeasts used to make a beer that has flavors of coriander, cloves, and banana. The Hennepin is a very tasty, very drinkable brew.
North Coast: California's North Coast Brewing is one of the best brewers in the country, and while many North Coast fans swear by the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, it's their Scrimshaw Pilsner that might just be my favorite beer of all. Floral and sweet with a nice balance of briny and bitter flavors, this pilsner is far more bright and full-flavored than most beers of this style. It drinks easy and has a flavor profile that simply doesn't get old.
Abita Beer: My first experience with this beer from Abita Springs, Louisiana came in a small bar in the French Quarter. I was just barely over the legal drinking age and completely in the dark about what to order. A kindly bartender recommended an Abita Amber, and I was hooked at the first malty, rich swallow. The Purple Haze is more famous, and fruit beer fans might enjoy it — but that basic amber is one of the best brews in these United States. It's a beer with some heft that doesn't throw its weight around.
Tallgrass Brewing: This Manhattan, Kansas brewery is the hip new kid on the Arkansas beer scene, and I've enjoyed their 8-Bit Pale Ale and Buffalo Sweat Stout. What's not to be missed, though, is their Halcyon Wheat, a brew that takes wheat beer to another level. This is a beer with bold flavors to please most hop-heads, but it still has that funky, grassy taste that wheat beer lovers crave. A very crisp and very drinkable beer.
Diamond Bear: Two beers you shouldn't pass up from Arkansas' major craft brewer are the Pale Ale and the Presidential IPA. Both beers are loaded with floral hops flavor, with the Pale adding a malty back-end to each swallow that really makes for a complete drink. The IPA isn't as strong as some in the style, but it has a nice way of opening up as it warms up slightly. These are complex beers that still remain grounded and accessible.
Vino's Brew Pub: Little Rock's original brew pub is bringing their new Pumpkin Spiced Ale to the festival, and this is a heady brew with cinnamon, nutmeg, and biscuity malt notes meant to remind the drinker of pumpkin pie. Don't let the flavor fool you, this is a 7.5% beer that is deceptively smooth and flavorful. It's a new seasonal for Vino's, so take advantage of the chance to try it before it goes into hibernation until next fall.
There are so many other brewers at this festival that I have barely scratched the surface of what is going to be available. If your favorite wasn't mentioned, let us know about it in the comments — everybody wants to know what's good to drink. Here's to a good event, and please keep in mind that if you try all the beers on this list, you should not operate a motor vehicle. Be safe, and enjoy the beer!
Next Thursday, Oct. 4, the American Heart Association and the Jack Stephens Heart Institute at St. Vincent are holding the ninth annual Festival of Wines at Dickey-Stephens Park. It's the largest wine tasting event in Arkansas, with 600 wines available. There will also be a silent art auction and hors d’oeuvres from 15 local restaurants — Bar Louie, Boscos, Boulevard Bread Co., Cheers in the Heights/Maumelle, Chik-fil-A, Copeland’s Famous New Orleans Restaurant and Bar, Cregeen’s Irish Pub, Kiyen’s, Outback Steakhouse North Little Rock, P.F Chang’s China Bistro, Salut Bistro, Taziki’s, Two Sister’s Catering, Whole Hog Café North Little Rock and YaYa’s Euro Bistro. Funds from the event go towards medical research and education about cardiovascular disease. The event is from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $60 in advance and $75 at the door and can be purchased at any Central Arkansas Arvest Bank or Eagle Bank locations, or by calling the American Heart Association at 501-375-9148.
I got word the other day from Micah Smith of Diamond Bear Brewing that they've just finished with their first batch of 2012 Rocktoberfest, the tasty fall seasonal that I admit to drinking my fair share of last year. I've optimistically decided to take this as a sign that this long, hot summer might have an end to it after all, with the crisp days of autumn — which is the best season we get around these parts — just around the bend. This is one of my favorite beers that Diamond Bear puts out, easily the equal to their award-winning Pale Ale and a fine successor to their summer seasonal, the Strawberry Blonde.
The Rocktoberfest pours a nice, dark amber color with a good, creamy head. The smell is malty and slightly biscuity, sweet but not too strong. Served very cold, the taste is thick and crisp with the rich malt on the back end; served a touch warmer, a fuller flavor of rich caramel and sweet hops shines through to create a very satisfying drink. There's not an overwhelming flavor of alcohol present, but this is definitely a warming beer to drink, perfect for mid-fall tailgating or other outdoor activities. It's not a bad beer for just kicking back and drinking with your supper in the evenings, either. Like the brewery's Irish Red, the Rocktoberfest might be just a little heavy on the maltiness, but folks who aren't fans of incredibly hoppy beers will find a lot to love with this brew.
Rocktoberfest should start showing up in stores at any time, and it's worth your while to head on down to S. Cross St. and get some fresh from the tap. Diamond Bear conducts tours every Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m., and your $7 tour fee will get you free samples of beer, the story behind the brewery, and one of their very attractive pint glasses. In addition, since their taproom is the only place in town where a thirsty person can get packaged beer on Sundays, it's worth making a trip downtown to grab a few cold ones. In addition to their great brews, they also make a mean root beer, so feel free to take the tour without imbibing anything alcoholic. Diamond Bear is mostly volunteer-run, with volunteers leading the tours, bottling the beer, and performing numerous housekeeping duties around the brewery — it's truly beer brewed, supported, and loved by locals.
Diamond Bear Brewery is located at 323 S. Cross Street in Little Rock. Their beers can be found in most local liquor stores, as well as many Central Arkansas restaurants. The Rocktoberfest is a limited seasonal run, so be sure to drink your fill this fall — or sit and pine for a glass of the malty nectar until next year rolls around.
Hot weather, like mosquitoes or bacon-tomato sandwiches, is just a part of life in Arkansas. But no matter if you're the sort of person who hides indoors during the season of heat soaking up the air conditioning or if you're a sun-worshipping summer lover, you might find yourself in need for something to aid you against the blast furnace of an Arkansas summer. Fear not - our local brewers are here to help. Little Rock's local beer scene might not be as highly developed as other places, but there's good beer being made and poured here, and no better time to have a pint to soothe the savage summer.
Vino's Pizzeria and Brew Pub has long been one of my favorite places to lift a glass, although it's true that the quality of the brew has been up and down over the years. Right now, under the direction of brewmaster Josiah Moody, the beer at Vino's is better than it's ever been, so if it's been awhile since you've had a slice and a glass, you can definitely find some summertime refreshment worth your time. The Rainbow Wheat is a classic heffeweisse with a citrusy, sweet flavor that will hit your hot spots better than lemonade. It's a clean-tasting beer with a spicy finish that's deceptively smooth and easy to drink. Fans of a less sweet brew will find their summer companion in the foamy, golden Six Bridges Cream Ale. This is the beer you buy for the friend who likes cold Budweiser and doesn't quite trust something made in a pizza joint - he'll thank you for showing him a beer that looks like a typical mainstream beer but has a nice grainy flavor with just enough soft malt to round it out. Both of these beers are winners, and available to take home in a growler in case you were needing something to revive you after a long day of lawn-mowing.
Fayetteville Flyer reports on the newest entry in Fayetteville's burgeoning craft-beer scene: Fossil Cove Brewing Co., a new brewery which is scheduled to open June 2 at 1946 N. Birch in Fayetteville. Owner Ben Mills, a graduate of the brewmaster school at U. of California at Davis, plans to start out selling kegs to local bars. If that's a hit, he'll move on to bottling. Keep up with the Fossil Cove Facebook page for more information.
Often times a good beer makes you think of more than just beer. Diamond Bear’s robust addition to its line-up, the Two Term Double IPA, is no exception. After warming up a bit, this spin-off of the Presidential IPA exudes the same sort of charm as the inspiration for its name, former President Bill Clinton, and pushes forward a progressive agenda: big beers in the South. Craft brew here is still kind of catching on, so this might be about as far as they can take it with locals right now. I’m still waiting on a tart Belgian-inspired brew from Diamond Bear. But this Two Term makes the wait more bearable.
At 9 percent ABV, the Two Term has a rich malt base and enough hops to tingle the sides of your tongue an hour after you’ve taken your last sip. Brewer Jesse Melton changed the dry-hopping method a little on the latest Two Term in hopes of sustaining the citrus hop aroma longer. It was packaged in January using Diamond Bear's newer Kroner bottling line. The others were bottled with the infamous green monster, Helga.
At nearly three months in the bottle, the latest Two Term is holding up strong. The 2010 and 2011 releases that co-owner Andy Applegate put back for a recent private tasting were subdued on hop aroma, but have an aged character that leans more toward sherry than paper. The ’10 was fruitier, darker, and clearer than the others, but with a tinge of mustiness that lets you know it’s past its prime. The 2011 is lighter in color, and retains a healthy balance of malt and hops that leads us to believe this latest release will be good for a long time to come. Two Term sells for around $9 a six-pack in stores, or you can always stop by the brewery on Cross Street in Little Rock for a six-pack or a growler to go.
Local liqueur company Lombardi closed shop this month, falling victim to banks' cautious small business lending practices. Nick Lawrence and a partner started Lombardi in Little Rock in 2007, shortly after Lawrence's primary employer, Delta Airlines, filed bankruptcy.
"I'm a pilot. My salary was sliced, my pension gone. I needed look into something else," said Lawrence, a Little Rock native.
Our local drinking holes are offering everything from super cheap buckets of Corona to special, artisanal cocktails (Dizzy's basil-orange mojito sounds amazing).
Check out a smattering of local specials after the jump.
Cotija's, the terrifically popular downtown Mexican restaurant, introduced a happy hour earlier this week that, at least initially, will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. The full menu will be available along with $2 domestic beers and margaritas.
Owner Leo Alvarez said today that if this goes well, he'll likely expand evening hours and open on weekends.
Speaking of happy hours, have downloaded our bar and happy hour iPhone app, Cocktail Compass yet?
Mmmmm, Double IPA.
Anyone tried anything from Refined Ale? I'm thinking about making a pre-game beer run and was thinking of giving it a try.
I know you can get it at Edwards Food Giant, probably elsewhere, too.
David Koon wrote about Refined Ale back in April.
Hmmm. Will have to check out. I love Layla's but its not a full fledged…
And betray Layla's with a franchise? No way.
I agree with Robert. Texas isn't perfect...but it comes pretty close! ;-)
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