The cold winter nights have left me craving stouts so my boyfriend and I decided to conduct a little beer battle – Stout versus Stout. One night after dinner we sat down to a table of three desserts, two stouts, a notepad and a pen (this is what normal people do, right?). This post sees the stouts matching with homemade chocolate cake!
To briefly recap …
The cold winter nights have left me craving stouts so my boyfriend and I decided to conduct a little beer battle – Stout versus Stout.
One night after dinner we sat down to a table of three desserts, two stouts, a notepad and a pen (this is what normal people do, right?)
The Stouts: Coopers Best Extra and 4 Pines Stout
Round 1: Homemade Creme Brulee – the best match was Coopers Best Extra, read all about it here
Round 2: Chocolate Brownie – the best match was 4 Pines Stout, read all about it here
Now it is time for Round 3 – Chocolate Cake.
The chocolate cake was a belated birthday cake from a friend and was homemade – happy days! Now it seems that there are varying degrees of chocolate cake, from the light chocolatey all the way to the extreme “death by chocolate” approach where you might as well have just bitten into a kilo bag of sugar. This cake was more on the lighter side and definitely delicious!
Judging from the lightness of the cake I would have initially picked 4 Pines for my favourite match but when the two came together what most jumped out was the coffee bitterness, it was kinda sharp and unexpected. Perhaps there wasn’t enough chocolate in the body of the 4 Pines to lift those flavours from the cake. The Coopers Best Extra seemed a superior match, mostly in texture as it has a more creamy body which went nicely with the light fluffiness from the cake. There was much more milk chocolate notes in this matching, perhaps the creamy texture of the beer washed over the cake and brought out those flavours. I’m not really much for technical bits and bobs so I’m really just guessing here! Whether I’m way off track with the reason, it tasted good me to!
Whilst it wasn’t a match that set hearts and palates racing it was Coopers Best Extra that tasted like it had the upper hand.
Best Match … Coopers Best Extra Stout. I think the next stop will be cheese!
Cold nights means STOUT and what better way to explore this great style by diving head first into some good ol’ head to head tastings. Going all Aussie, the stouts doing battle are 4 Pines Stout versus Coopers Best Extra. The first round was against homemade Creme Brulee with Coopers Best Extra proving the more exciting match … now it’s round two … bring on the Chocolate Brownies!
The first round of Stout -v- Stout saw 4 Pines Stout match head to head with Coopers Best Extra to see what would be the superior match with my homemade Creme Brulee. I’m not the greatest at desserts, except banana bread – my banana bread kicks ass – but the result was pretty damn good. To read the match ups and see which was the favourite pair, read on here.
Now it is time for Round 2 – Chocolate Brownies.
Normally we don’t have a lot of dessert in the house but winter has been damn cold so we are looking for any excuse to turn on the oven; as a result my boyfriend frequently disappears down the cake mix aisle at the shops.
Baking is always fun and usually a little messy in the mixing process. Like a true gentlemen my boyfriend gave me the wooden spoon to lick; I don’t care how old you are, it is always fun to eat the mix straight off the spoon!
Coopers Best Extra got a little overrun by the chocolate brownie. There was indeed great chocolatey notes from the beer and brownie but it seemed the bitterness and almost liquorice flavours stood out like an awkward pimply teenage at a school dance. The difference was a little jarring on the palate.
The 4 Pines Stout proved to be more complimentary; the sweet dark chocolate flavours from the beer and brownie was nicely balanced. There was still an element of coffee bitterness as in the Coopers but the 4 Pines was a more subtle and delicate touch. The more we tasted these two together, the more delightful the combination. Smooth, balanced and just lovely – perfect for a winter night and the fact the house warmed up whilst the oven was on made it even better!
Best Match with Chocolate Brownies … 4 Pines Stout!
Next Time: The third and final round between 4 Pines and Coopers … good old trusty chocolate cake!
Cold nights means STOUT and what better way to explore this great style by diving head first into some good ol’ head to head tastings. First up in girl+beer’s Stout versus Stout is Coopers Best Extra -v- 4 Pines Stout, fighting for best match with homemade Creme Brulee … let the battle begin!
This winter has offered up some really cold days so naturally the taste buds gravitate towards the dark side of beer … hello Stout!
The history of stout goes back to Porters, popular in London in the 1800s, and were referred to as ‘stout porter’ referring to their stronger and bolder flavours compared to Porters. The modern day stout is, generally speaking, dark and delicious with chocolatey and/or coffee notes. Great with chocolate desserts, a classic with freshly shucked oysters and, at a Five Bar (WA) event whilst I was working there, Nick Bath, Director of Blue Cow Cheese Company & Dr Chuck Hahn matched Mad Brewers Stout Noir with Queso Mahon Grande D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) – divine!
With a couple of stouts in the fridge and the temperatures low, it was time to do a little tasting event at home …
Introducing girl+beer’s Stout versus Stout!
The Stouts …
4 Pines Stout (aka Space Beer) + Coopers Best Extra Stout
For the first of three battles, 4 Pines Stout and Coopers Best Extra were matched with homemade Creme Brulee.
I don’t have a positive history with cooking desserts, many a failed attempt come to mind, so I wasn’t feeling overly confident however I had my heart set on the idea. Considering the typical flavours in stouts I decided to throw in a shot of fresh espresso as well.
We wrote on each glass with a marker so we didn’t lose track of which stout was which; a distinct possibility since we are both a little forgetful at times! The mini blow torch we dug up from my boyfriend’s tool kit did a fine job at caramalising the icing sugar and was a lot more fun than just putting them under the griller as the recipe book had suggested.
It was time to tuck into Creme Brulee and our two Australian stouts …
4 Pines Stout
This had a thinner mouth feel and less head retention than the Coopers Best Extra Stout. There were beautiful coffee and rich dark chocolate flavours in this ‘certified space beer‘ and perhaps hints of vanilla and aniseed. No doubting that it is certainly a beautiful stout but a little thin against the very dense creme brulee and the back palate bitterness clashed with the more dominant sweetness in the dessert.
Coopers Best Extra Stout
A big tan head with aromas of fresh coffee beans that translated into flavour along with chocolate that lightly coated the tongue. It’s got a bit of body and a bit of bite (or as my boyfriend who say “RAAA!”) and the creme brulee washed over it nicely. The caramalised icing sugar on top went particularly well with the beer, emphasising the chocolate sweetness.
Trying out Sticky Chicken Wings (using Coopers Pale instead of Sake since I had no sake!) matched with the latest Little Creatures Single Batch – The Day of the Long Shadow (and even longer beer name that makes it a real mouthful!) …
Styled with a cold European Christmas in mind; it’s a boozy 8.9% abv that smacks you lovingly in the face but it’s nicely balanced with assorted spices and dark fruits. Whilst Little Creatures are normally known for a more American hop approach they have used UK Sovereign and Challenger hops. These English hops lend softer and more earthy characteristics with Challenger hops, in particular, providing fruitiness and sutble spices. There is a little bit of bitterness lurking about as well so I thought a dish with some contrasting bitter/sweet flavours could be an interesting match.
I flicked through Bill’s Everyday Asian and landed on a recipe for Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings. The contrasting soy, chilli and sugar sounded like it could work up against the Little Creatures “the day of the long tea time of the soul darkness etc etc” but at the same time I had my doubts however I liked the sound of the dish and couldn’t be bothered looking into it any further. I had briefly contemplated something Christmas inspired, in keeping with the theme, but I really didn’t have the time to be trying to roast a leg of ham or turkey and fruitcake isn’t really dinner appropriate. I had also committed myself to cooking three other dishes that night (related to other occasions) so I was inclined to get on with it!
I kinda followed the recipe however we didn’t have Sake so I just used the nearest booze in arms reach … in went a generous dash of Coopers Pale Ale. I had palm sugar in hand, which I had purchased for another dish, so I grated some and tossed it through instead of the regular white sugar the book called for because, to be perfectly honest, it felt more asian-y. I ditched the sesame seeds because I just couldn’t be bothered. The result was a recipe that went a little something like this:
Sticky Chicken Wings (based on Bill Granger’s Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings)
I served with chilli fried rice so dinner wasn’t just a plate of chicken wings …
6 Chicken Wings
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 red chill, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Mirin
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
Generous splash of Coopers Pale Ale
Grated Palm Sugar (approx 30 grams)
Throw chicken wings into a dish lined with baking paper and into a hot oven (200 degrees) for about 35-40 minutes. In a saucepan over medium heat throw in the other ingredients, garlic and chilli first and then the rest. Cook for a few minutes or as long as it takes for the liquid to reduce by about half. Whether this was because of my handful of variations this actually took a good 15 minutes.
After 35-40 minutes remove chicken wings from oven and coat with the sauce, toss through to ensure they are covered. I was a little skeptical at this stage, thinking the sauce wouldn’t stick but after another 15-2o minutes in the oven the result was just as the title promises!
Dinner was sticky and good but sadly not a winning match with the beer with far too much contrast going on between the food and the beer. Ah well, I get another chance at it with a Gauloise Christmas still in the fridge!
You could walk through the town centre, pick up a take away coffee from The Urban Bean and duck your head into any one of the great stores for local produce, gifts, surf wear or a good book to read. You could park yourself at Settlers Tavern, try a pint of something locally brewed and order a generous and hearty lunch. Or … if you’re me … you cram as much food and beer into that 4 hours as you can …
What to do in Margaret River for 4 hours?
You could walk through the town centre, pick up a take away coffee from The Urban Bean and duck your head into any one of the great stores for local produce, gifts, surf wear or a good book to read.
You could park yourself at Settlers Tavern, try a pint of something locally brewed and order a generous and hearty lunch.
You could drive down to the River Mouth and, if you’re not completely uncoordinated like me, have a surf, then lie on the sand where champion world surfers like Kelly Slater have hung out during the famous Margaret River Masters surf comp.
Or … if you’re me … you cram as much food and beer into that 4 hours as you can …
Stop #1 – Margaret River Dairy Company | Bussell Highway, on your way south towards Margaret River
Beer and Cheese are just meant to be. There was no way I was going to just drive past without stopping and the best thing about the Margaret River Dairy Company, apart from yummy cheese, is that they give you two shots at making sure you get some. Both shops are on Bussell Highway, admittedly one is pretty big and the other is a quaint little shop but as long as there is cheese I’m not complaining! I always seem to go to the second shop; it could be because I like the country-feel of the smaller shop or, more likely, I fail to stop in time for the first one.
My normal purchase is the $30 pack which consists of Water Crackers, Marinated Fetta, your choice of Cheddar, Brie or Camembert and a choice of one of their Farmhouse Cheeses. Great gifts if you can resist opening them and diving head first into cheese-topia.
This time I changed things up and opted for some others that I had not eaten recently, selecting some Emmental, Double Cream Camembert, regular Camembert and Baked Ricotta. Beer and Cheese night at the house will be happening shortly!
I arrived before the lunch rush and, since it’s school holidays, managed to avoid lots of kids running around being human trip hazards. After a short chatter with the brewers Mal and Sorcha, I started to feel guilty as I was doing nothing and they were hauling kegs around so I thought I’d better make a move. Of course I had to try the Kolsch before departure which Sorcha poured for me and I was much appreciative. They are using a paler malt now and it’s getting closer to Mal’s experience of a true Cologne (Germany) Kolsch. Delicate and citrusy, it was indeed very good! The Baltic Porter, or “balty” as Mal referred to it, is very close to release, give it another couple of weeks and keep your eyes on Facebook.
Stop #3 – Margaret River Venison Farm | 5103 Caves Road, Margaret River
I had intended on going from Colonial to Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery. I took Cowaramup Bay Road (that would end at gorgeous Gracetown) and approached Caves Road. I knew that if I turned right I would be only a few kilometres from Cheeky Monkey however signage told me that if I turned left it was a mere 3km to the Margaret River Venison Farm. I thought about their Coat of Arms Chorizo and turned left whilst trying not to drool.
I walked out with a small selection of goods with the idea of meat + beer buzzing in my head and wondered what would match with Emu Ham, Coat of Arms Chorizo (Kangaroo and Emu) and Smoked Beef. I gotta get myself to the International Beer Shop sooner rather than later!
Stop #4 – Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery | 4259 Caves Road, Margaret River
Sitting down to a middy of their Old Reliable Classic Pale Ale meant I had now tried all the Cheeky Monkey beers on offer. I also got to meet and chat with “Red”, the Head Brewer and it was well over an hour later before I stopped inundating him with questions. Poor guy.
The Pale Ale, nicknamed amongst staff as “space monkey” (check out the graphics to see why) was great with well balanced hop bitterness and nice biscuity notes. Had I not been driving I would have easily and happily indulged in a pint. There are plenty of ideas of the next few single batches, or “Brewer’s Choice” releases so its well worth keeping an eye out for those on their Facebook page.
And that was my afternoon, back home in time to walk the puppy and cook some dinner and wonder why we didn’t move to the South West sooner!
Here’s a rough map (i.e. please don’t use it in lieu of proper directions!) of my afternoon …
I was recently inspired by a fellow beer lover asking me on the girl+beer Facebook page about some cheese and Saison matching. I wrote back with a few suggestions and couldn’t get the idea out of my head so I did a little tasting of my own!
Saisons are one of the harder styles to pin down to any definite specifications since they didn’t really have any to begin with. They were brewed by farm workers rather than professional brewers and, as such, the recipe consisted of whatever they had access to. Belonging to the family of Farmhouse Ales, Saisons; which is the French word for “season” were brewed in southern Belgium during the cooler months because the poor guys were still waiting for the invention of refrigeration. The story goes that Saisons had three purposes – first, to keep the more senior farm workers employed with things to do (i.e. make beer) when it was cold and farming was pretty quiet; second, to brew refreshing beer for the workers in the summer months and third to produce spent grain that the animals would happily munch away on. Generally speaking they are well carbonated, hoppy, dry and complex with different herbs and spices being incorporated into the mix.
This post was inspired by a fellow beer lover asking me on the girl+beer Facebook page for some cheese and Saison matching ideas and after tinkering around in my beer-adled mind, I came up with three suggestions:
The question played on my mind for a few days to the point where I just had to try it for myself. I’ve done a little Saison and cheese matching whilst hosting beer events at Five Bar (Perth) but not in depth and it’s not the sort of beer style you tend to have rolling around the fridge. However, since I just happened to have a bottle of Temple Saison chilled and ready to be consumed it seemed like the beer and cheese gods had spoken.
After work I went to the local IGA and stared at the fridge, my options were a bit limited so I couldn’t get all the matches I had suggested, but that’s what I get for shopping outside normal working hours. I walked away with Harvey Vintage Cheddar, Mainland Camembert and some Hindmarsh Valley Chevre.
The camembert, a soft cow’s milk cheese, was a lovely match in that the texture was soft, creamy and almost stuck to the tongue for the saison to wash over and bubble on top of. I’ve always loved camembert and especially the rind; it’s a very specific taste; earthy and almost like raw mushrooms. It’s texturally interesting with a distinctive flavour, much like saisons with their unique Belgian yeast flavours that are best described as, well, Belgian yeast flavours reflecting that same earthiness and complexity as camembert.
The chevre was an interesting match; it is a South Australian goat’s milk cheese that’s soft and almost hints at falling apart but it doesn’t (what a cheeky cheese!). It was a little sharp, a little bittersweet and overall has softer flavours than the Vintage Cheddar and Camembert; the dry wheat like characters in the Saison were similarly soft but distinctive. Perhaps this was more a case of soft, earthy and herbal flavours meeting together.
I think I enjoyed the Vintage Cheddar the most, its texture was ever so slight crumbly and left a thick coating on the tongue which the Saison grabbed hold of. That’s the beautiful thing about beer and cheese matching, the carbonation of the beer and the bitterness from the hops are great for cutting through cheese and opening up flavours. Sharp and fruity, rich and dry, I had initially worried the Vintage Cheddar would be too much for the Saison but I had underestimated this powerful but subtle Belgian ale. It has great hop character in terms of fruity aromas and flavours rather than any strong bitterness and this plays nicely with rich creamy cheddar.
As a style, Saisons touch on all the things I love about beer with interesting heritage, a mind-blowing match with food and when I’ve done tastings of it with people who’ve never tried it before, and never heard about it, they instantly fall in love. It seems to transcend the words “actually I’m not really a beer person” and it’s always fun to turn a sentence like that completely on its head.
When we decide to cook Mexican at home it usually ends up being tortillas, always delicious and I always have just one too many! This particular night, however, I decided to stretch my Mexican cooking skills a little further to quesadillas; a Mexican dish that Jamie Oliver describes as “basically a Mexican-style stuffed pancake”. Two different IPAs to match and another successful night in!
When we decide to cook Mexican at home it usually ends up being tortillas. They are always delicious and I always have one too many because the pain of completely over eating seems totally worth it at the time.
On this particular night, however, I decided to stretch my Mexican cooking skills a little further to quesadillas; a Mexican dish that Jamie Oliver describes as “basically a Mexican-style stuffed pancake”. Its hard to fault that logic.
I am going to be adding quesadillas to my list of fun dishes to cook at home. I did them on the hot plates which ended up looking great on the table and kept them hot, hot, hot!
We always go for Pale Ales or IPA with this style of food and perhaps it is because it’s a great pairing or perhaps because it’s the type of beer we buy the most, hell it’s probably both.
I had found Feral Hog Hog on special at Cape Cellars for just $14.99 leaving me no choice but to snap it up. Meanwhile, unknown to me, my boyfriend was picking up a case of James Squire Stow Away IPA. I guess great minds think alike (or, as my father would say, fools seldom differ).
Feral Hop Hog, always amazing, was first up before the cooking started. There was something very cool about coming home to find your boyfriend and dog playing in the backyard and a case of India Pale Ale by the back door.
The four pack of Hop Hog disappeared quickly which was sad but, knowing it will soon be flowing from a new brewery capable of 10 million litres of beer a year put the smile back on my face! We moved to James Squire Stow Away IPA for dinner. The change in IPAs proved to be an interesting little taste experiment, the Hop Hog boasting far more hop aromas and flavours with crisp stone fruits whilst the Squire version was more malty sweet and biscuity. Maybe it’s about time we did an IPA tasting, I guess I better get to the International Beer Shop!
Throw it all together and breathe deep cause it all smells great!
Fire up a hot pan and don’t be shy with the oil. I did this by cutting my tortilla in half but I guess it would be easier to just fold it over – not sure why I automatically picked the harder way to do it but never mind that! Sprinkle on a little cheese (I use the local Capel Shredded Cheddar) and then spoon the mix on over the top. Fold (or place the other half of your tortilla) and flatten with a spatula. Cook until crisp and repeat with all the ingredients you have left! Serve with sour cream, the guacamole and a wedge or two of fresh lime.