girl + winter beers

Ah winter, the time of year when beer geek conversation turns from aggressively hopped American pales to dark malty beasts with punchy roast and chocolate flavours.

Ah winter, the time of year when beer geek conversation turns from aggressively hopped American pales to dark malty beasts with punchy roast and chocolate flavours.

The Food Alternative | Tuesday’s 6pm on RTRFM 92.1 Drivetime

Listen here to past segments

I was invited to Perth’s RTRFM radio station last night to chat about winter beers during the Drivetime segment called ‘The Food Alternative’. It’s a weekly segment every Tuesday at 6pm that explores Perth’s great food and beverage scene. I had an absolute blast chatting about beers with Drivetime hosts Simon and Anth. In the lead up* to last night I had naturally been thinking a LOT about winter beers.

*aka bundle of nerves at being on the radio

As much as the beer geek in me is screaming that stouts and porters are great drinking all year around not just winter, I cannot deny that my palate craves those darker brews more when the temperature drops. Like ballsy red wine, peaty scotch and roast dinner, the darker ales are just the ticket for a wintery night.

I’ve got some exciting beers in our fridge that are perfect for the rain and cold wind –

  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2014, their annual release barleywine style beer
  • Boatrocker Ramjet Whisky Barrel Aged Imperial Stout, a limited release from Melbourne
  • Cheeky Monkey Silverback 2013 Russian Imperial Stout from Margaret River

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2013

But not every night can be filled with beers edging their way over 10% ABV with flavours that shamelessly smack you in the face whilst wearing a devilish grin. So when you’ve come in from the rain, your socks kinda soggy and your wind swept hair looking nothing like it does in shampoo commercials, here are my two of favourite winter to-go beers to cuddle you back to happiness …

coopers best extra stout

Coopers Best Extra Stout Tasting Notes

Easily one of my favourite “good heavens it’s cold outside” beers, it’s liquid ink pouring from the bottle with a light coffee head. There’s a lot happening here, a little roast, a little smoke and big doses of chocolate, liquorice, coffee beans and brown sugar.

Coopers Best Extra Stout
Coopers Best Extra Stout

nail oatmeal stout

More jet black goodness … aromas of milk chocolate and biscuit and something kinda melony. Flavours of chocolate and red fruit dominate the palate with a little fresh citrus in the back. The mouth feel is creamy and soft; its 6% ABV is well hidden amongst a lot of delicious flavours, of course after a few you are aware it is a fraction on the stronger side. Cheeky little stout.

Nail Oatmeal Stout
Nail Oatmeal Stout

Since I have many favourites I’ll be happily re-hashing this theme a couple more times so I hope you’ll join me and please feel free to comment with your winter favourites!

Big thank you to Simon, Anth, Ai-Ling and Laura for inviting me to be part of The Food Alternative and assuring me I’d be okay. Additional thanks to Simon and Anth for not thinking I was weird when they were telling me to stay close to the microphone and I remarked it was like holding the distance before an awkward first kiss. Sometimes my internal filter shorts out.

 

girl + pickled onions

I like pickles. I like beer. Now I can bring them together!

I really like pickled onions. Actually I like pretty much anything pickled. If there’s are a jar of pickled onions in the fridge I will randomly snack on them like they are bowl of chips in the middle of the table.

Pickle Club – make pickles, bring everyone together, trade pickles, laugh and eat. Repeat. Highly recommended with beer and wine. Set one up with your friends!

Naturally it was only inevitable before I tried pickling onions. Being the proud member of a little pickle club here in Perth also encourages me to play with pickles.

Wait, that sounded wrong. Let’s move on.

So I tried this recipe for Stout Pickled Onions that I found at a fun food blog called One Tomato, Two Tomato and followed almost all the directions, I excluded juniper berries because I didn’t have any. I only made one little jar and gave it away at pickle club so I never tasted it but apparently it was quite good.

My second attempt had a few more changes – apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar and I threw in some fennel seeds too, it seemed like a good idea. The fennel came out stronger than I had thought given the smaller amount compared to the other spices but it didn’t dominate the flavours. I used Coopers Best Extra Stout as the beer in the recipe because:
a) it is seriously tasty – black coffee and chocolate, with a silky mouth feel and just a little bit feisty,
b) easily found in most bottle shops, and
c) I can buy a big bottle and have plenty left over to keep me company as I pickle.

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This recipe was enough for a 700g jar –
8 small brown pickling onions
330ml Coopers Best Extra Stout
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt, sugar, black mustard seeds, coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds

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Slice the ends off the onions and peel skin off. Put beer and cider into saucepan and bring to boil. Stir in sugar and salt until it dissolves. Remove from heat, add onions and all your spices. Stir occasionally until onions start to feel a little softer.

Remove onions and place in jar, pour liquid over the top to cover. I had a little leftover liquid so I made sure to strain all the spices and pack those into the jar as a priority! Screw lid on tight, leave to cool before putting in fridge. These were good to go after about 3 days.

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Please note I don’t have a lot of pickling experience so I haven’t mentioned anything about sterilising jars or how long these will keep. I don’t think these will last long in my house anyway cause I’ll eat them all in two weeks so I figure I’m safe.

Next time I think I’ll throw in some fresh Thai chillies …

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Stouts + Tarts

In order to further develop my experience in cooking with beer I decided to purchase a book – “Cooking with Beer” seemed to be a pretty safe bet given the fairly clear title. It’s by Paul Mercurio who I think of as a) the Strictly Ballroom guy and b) the guy who really likes beer who was in Strictly Ballroom. The first recipe I decided to try was the ‘Onion, Stout and Goats Cheese Tarts’, not only because they sounded really tasty but because my most recent trip to Cellarbrations Carsisle had seen me bring home quite a number of stouts.

This is a picture of a tart with a lot of beers

In order to further develop my experience in cooking with beer I decided to purchase a book – “Cooking with Beer”.  It seemed to be a pretty safe bet given the fairly clear title; it’s by Paul Mercurio who I think of as a) the Strictly Ballroom guy and b) the guy who really likes beer who was in Strictly Ballroom.

When I first got the book I did the thing we do with cook books and flicked through saying “yum” at almost every page. My patient boyfriend had to endure twenty minutes of the same sequence of sounds – a page turning, my exclamation of “yum!” and then a listing of ingredients. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The first recipe I decided to try was the ‘Onion, Stout and Goats Cheese Tarts’, not only because they sounded really tasty but because my most recent trip to Cellarbrations Carlisle had seen me bring home quite a number of stouts.

Cooking with Beer
Paul Mercurio

I made a couple of changes to the recipe, omitting fennel as I am not a big fan and had to find a cheese substitute since I couldn’t find any blue goats cheese the recipe called for. I decided to use Persian Fetta AND King Island Ash Blue, trying to ensure I had all my bases covered. Perhaps using two different types of fairly assertive cheeses was a little overkill, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing – it’s just making my taste buds work a bit harder.

Initially I had thought a tart would be a light, easy going dinner, you know, nothing too heavy. As I started preparing to cook I found myself looking at a kitchen bench top loaded with ingredients that painted a very different picture. The end result was a dish packed with rich creamy mushrooms and onions, big doses of garlic and brown sugar sweetness all mixed in with half a bottle of Coopers Best Extra Stout. Oh and don’t forget the two cheeses I selected, both dolloped on top in generous spoonfuls. I’m really not a subtle cook sometimes…

The Coopers Best Extra (6.3%) added noticeable coffee bitterness and roasty element to the dish. Savoury mushroom richness was dominant and the Ash Blue had it’s own little mushroomy flavour as well. The rich malt sweetness in the stout was harmony with the spices and brown onion. It was also nice to have a beery bitterness contrast with the tongue coating creaminess of the cheese and rich almost gravy like mushroom and onion medley.

When it came time to find a beer to match only something big and bold was going to be capable of satisfying this rich tart. I immediately went for the Murray’s Craft Brewing Wild Thing Imperial Stout (NSW) that had been sitting in my fridge waiting to be opened. It was an amazing match to the Onion, Stout and (now multiple cheese) Tart because of the similar flavours to that of the Coopers Best Extra – assertive coffee and expensive chocolate bitterness, rich malt and a touch of roast characters but all in much bigger quantities but still balanced. And it’s all encased in a 10% abv monster that adds warming boozy sweetness. Not only did it do a great job of standing up to the tart (what a great way to open a sentence) but it confidently went head to head and survived.

Murray’s Wild Thing
Imperial Stout
10% abv | Murray’s Craft Brewing Company

Stout -v- Stout: Round 1 – Creme Brulee

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

Coopers Best Extra Stout                                                                                     4 Pines Stout
Coopers Brewing (SA)                                                                             4 Pines Brewing (NSW)
6.3% abv | Foreign Extra Stout Style                                                              5.1% abv | Irish Dry Stout Style

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.

Firing up the mini blow torch for home made Creme Brulee


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.

Best Match – Coopers Best Extra!

Next Round: Chocolate Brownies

Dirty Stout Chutney Burgers

“Dirty” because that’s how home made burgers should be, dirty and messy … Stout Chutney for unique and added flavour and a couple of Stouts for good measure to wash it down with

… served with, of course, a couple of stouts, namely Coopers Best Extra Stout followed by limited release Bootleg Oatmeal Stout

There was a little rain last night so with a bit of chill around it very much felt like stout-weather. As a result, I found myself at Cape Cellars and staring at a big bottle of Coopers Best Extra. I was in the mood for something new and my search for the just released Little Creatures Single Batch (The Quiet American) had been thwarted with delivery not expected until Wednesday. In the corner of the bottom shelf I spotted Bootleg Oatmeal Stout … two please!

Example of one of my past Mega-Burger-Patty
(minus the bun since I forgot to buy them)

My history of making burgers has often resulted in a burger patty that could flatten a small child if dropped from a significant height.

This time, my man was smart enough to divide my mixture into 4 patties … however, the end result was still a big, big burger, now divided up into more mouth friendly portions. There’s something very sensory about making burger patties, throwing in whatever you like and hoping it all goes (and holds!) together. The key ingredient on this occasion was a big whack of Spiced Stout Chutney from The Brewers Dray and it worked beautifully!

And you need something to go with a burger. Hmm, salad? Hell no. That won’t work. Lightly fried Paprika Red Potato Wedges … hell yes. Throw in a mass amount of rosemary? Why the heck not?

Dinner was stouty, messy and delicious.

(Pardon me whilst I attempt to get my beer geek on now please!)

Coopers Best Extra proved to be the winning match to the wide variety of flavours coming from our ridiculously loaded burgers. It had the power and body to cope with such an assault of flavours and that beautiful soft bitterness and hint of dark chocolate reflected contrasting sweet and acid flavours in the burger.

Bootleg Oatmeal Stout, although a beautiful brew, was a bit too sweet for the burger but a nice beer to sip on once the burger was devoured! It’s kinda like soft liquorice and black coffee got together and had a baby. I also had vanilla bean ice cream pop into my head whilst I was drinking this, perhaps because of the silky, creamy texture and head retention. The more it warmed up, the more liquorice popped into life.

Dirty Stout Chutney Burgers
and Bootleg Oatmeal Stout for Dessert

For anyone interested, here’s a role call of ingredients:

Dirty Stout Chutney Burgers

Beef Mince combined in a big bowl with …

  • Very Generous Teaspoon of Spiced Stout Chutney
  • Teaspoon of French Mustard
  • Cracked Pepper
  • 1 x Spring Onion
  • 1/3 cup Breadcrumbs
  • 1 x Chilli
  • Oregano

Burgers were then built with tomato, avocado (though I think the poor avocado got belted into submission and lost in the sea of other flavours!), Paul Newman’s Lime & Chilli Mayonnaise, Capel Cheddar, garlic sauteed mushrooms & onion, of course, our own Salsa Eternal.

Paprika Red Potato Wedges were simply cut and nuked in the microwave until half way cooked before thrown in a hot frying pan with extra virgin olive oil, paprika and rosemary. Served with a bit of Sour Cream.