BOTW–Hop Off!

First, just a reminder that Sunday, April 24, 2011, is our monthly exercise in folly, Savoy Cocktail Book Night at Alembic Bar. If any of the cocktails, (they also have a great beer selection,) on this blog have captured your fancy, stop by after 6 and allow the skilled bartenders, (and me,) to make them for you. It is always a fun time.

French Style Potato Salad.

Most potato salad in the US is made according to the mayonnaise dressed model. Another tasty way to make Potato Salad is, according to Julia Child, more French. I am not an expert in French Cuisine, so I cannot say. I do, however like this kind of Potato Salad. What are the characteristics? Start some potatoes boiling or steaming. While that is happening, make the dressing, (or maybe Marinade is a better term,) by finely mincing some shallots and herbs (Fresh Tarragon FTW! Fresh Dill is also great!). Splash in a little White Wine or Sherry vinegar, olive oil, a teaspoon of coarse mustard. Liberally dash in Salt and freshly ground black pepper. When the potatoes are just barely cooked, drain them and toss them in the marinade. Allow to stand for a bit, check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature. I embellished this version by also including steamed green beans along with the potatoes. Very tasty.

I like to add things to hamburgers.

Different people have different philosophies on Hamburgers. Are they just beef or do you season them? Fabio Viviani got dinged for hamburgers which were too much like, “Meat Loaf,” by the judges on this year’s Top Chef Season. Personally, I like to skirt the edge of Meat Loaf by adding some bread crumbs and seasonings.

Flannestad Hamburgers: In a large bowl wet a couple tablespoons of bread crumbs with wine and olive oil. Finely mince a couple cloves garlic and a teaspoon of onions. Decide on a regional seasoning theme. I like Spain lately, and season with Spicy Smoked Paprika, Thyme, and Oregano. Add a pound of ground beef and knead lightly until combined. Divide into three patties. Before cooking season with salt and pepper.

These Ledbetter’s English Muffins are my current favorite Hamburger Buns. However, they are a little thick, so I like to take about an eighth of an inch out of the middle when cutting them for burger accessories.

Wherein I deviate from my commute in search of beer.

The other Friday I was at work and remembered that we needed more beer at home. However, after a few years I have exhausted most of the typical choices at the two nearest stops on my commute. I thought to myself, “Man it would be awesome if there was some way I could stop off at one of this cities great bottle shops for some unusual beers on the way home.” Then I saw a comment from the manager of local bottle store Healthy Spirits, and thought to myself, “Wait, if I took the 6 MUNI Bus to Haight and Divis, then walked to Healthy Spirits, I could get some tasty beer. Then, the 24 MUNI Bus stops right in front of the store and takes me all the way to Cortland Avenue! Score! Cool beer, and it probably won’t take any longer than usual.”

I had been drinking dark beers recently, so I asked for a selection of Hoppy beers, thinking Mrs. Flannestad and I could do a bit of a taste off among a few we hadn’t yet tried.

Sierra Nevada, Hoptimum

A group of hop-heads and publicans challenged our Beer Camp brewers to push the extremes of whole-cone hop brewing. The result is this: a 100 IBU, whole-cone hurricane of flavor. Simply put —Hoptimum: the biggest whole-cone IPA we have ever produced. Aggressively hopped, dry-hopped, AND torpedoed with our exclusive new hop varieties for ultra-intense flavors and aromas.

Mr. Flannestad: I liked this, but found the finish a tad overpoweringly bitter for my liking.

Mrs. Flannestad: The most hoppy delicious beer of the evening. Winner and Grand Champeen!

Drake’s, Hopocalypse IIPA – 9.3% ABV, 100+ IBUs

Large amounts of American two-row malt and English Pale malt are combined with Vienna, Rye & Crystal malts, then balanced with German magnum, Simcoe & Chinook hops. Then, of course, we then dry hop it with additional Simcoe & Chinook. Finally, this deep orange monster is loosely filtered to keep the integrity of the malt and hops in tact. Enjoy the massive aromatic revelation and prophetic flavor of this beer now and forever after.

Mr. Flannestad: I seem to remember finding Hopocalypse my favorite of the evening, just enough hops to balance out the malt.

Mrs. Flannestad: Tasty, but a little too over-hopped to take the lead.


Humlemord er en ølserie, hvor vi bruger så store mængder humle, at vi kalder det humlemord. Facts om Passion of Hops: OG: 1104 FG: 1030 Alkohol 9,9% vol.Brygget d. 11. december 2009, tappet d. 8 februar 2010, IBU 160. Indhold 33 cl.Brygget på malt, vand, gær, sukker, humle (Sorachi, Amarillo, Chinook, Simcoe, Columbus, Palisade) Ufiltreret og upasteuriseret Bør opbevares mørkt og køligt. Mindst holdbar til: 10. marts 2012

Mr. Flannestad: This was kind of weird, not a great fusion of Belgian and American styles. More interesting than outstanding.

Mrs. Flannestad: I had high hopes for this one as I smuggled it home for Mr. Underhill from Denmark. The woman in the shop in Copenhagen told me that the translation was “HOP MURDER” so I was very intrigued.  However, the additional aging spent waiting for this HOPPY occasion was not kind to the carbonation. Note to self: drink souvenir beer immediately after landing in celebration of making it home alive.

Burgers were grilled over lump mesquite and garnished with arugula, tomato slices, and sauteed onions.

Firestone Walker, Double Jack

Double Jack IPA is our first ever Imperial IPA. It features a big malty middle to cloak the high alcohol and mouth puckering hop bitterness. Huge tangerine, grapefruit and juicy fruit aroma blossom over the herbal blue basil and malt earthiness of this aggressive beer. Best enjoyed in moderation.

Mr. Flannestad: The maltiest entry of the beers we tried this evening, very good. I would rank it No. 2 among those tried.

Mrs. Flannestad: This was my second favorite of the evening, but I felt that it could have used some HOP in the name to qualify for the competition.  Double Jack didn’t quite fit in, but was very delicious. and hoppy good.

BOTW–Arend Tripel

I really like this beer. First off, I find most Belgian-style Tripels to be too sweet for my taste.

GREAT LABEL! Anyway, the Arend Tripel, while in reality not all that dry, manages to seem drier than it is. I think it is the touch of hops, especially, that give it that impression.

It is also very complex, you can whip out some of those fun Belgian descriptors: Bananas, Clove, bubblegum, and the always popular “Horse Blanket”. No, I’m kidding about the Horse Blanket, I don’t detect much, if any, Brett in this beer. Save that descriptor for Waterloo’s Oud Beersel Oude Gueze. That’s Oud, not Ood, Dr. Who Fans, but if you want to conflate, conflate away.

Kudos to Waterloo Beverages for bringing in this, and the other eclectic Belgian Beers of their range. Great beers, one and all.

BOTW–Velvet Merkin

Right, well, this is sort of my St. Patrick’s Day Post… The Irish love a good shaggy dog story, right?

At Alembic Bar, they would occasionally have the Firestone-Walker beer “Velvet Merkin” on tap. A very nice California Oatmeal Stout with a hilarious name.

I leave it to you, to discover the rather Not Safe For Work nature of the meaning of “Merkin”.

Just this winter, I found Firestone-Walker had finally bottled what I thought was “Velvet Merkin”. This amused me to no end, and I had to buy a six pack tout de suite. Thinking Firestone-Walker had managed to slip one past the TTB, I posted the news to facebook, “Velvet Merkin in bottles! Looks like someone at the TTB forgot to bring their dictionary to work!” Unfortunately, Dan Miller, (of Sloshed!,) deflated my enjoyment by pointing out the beer was now called “Velvet Merlin”.

Looked in the fridge. Sure enough the beer had gone from Burlesque to Renaissance Faire. “Velvet Merlin”? Really? That is just soooo lame.

Well, despite the pathetic sorcerous nature of the new name, the beer is still tasty.

At 5.5% ABV, Velvet Merlin is a nice change from the usual over alcoholic Imperial Stouts so popular these days with American Craft brewers. Good flavor, too, and nice body. All the things you look for in an Oatmeal Stout. It will definitely put some hair on your… Well… Uh, chin. Yeah, that’s it. Chin.

BOTW–Midnight Sessions

Another beer from one of my favorite breweries on the West Coast, Port Brewing, in San Diego, CA.

Black beers seem to be all the rage these days among brewers, I guess the style is probably defined by using darkly roasted grains in combination with the other elements more common among IPAs. Heavily hopped dark beers are about the most common style.

Port Brewing’s Midnight Sessions is all about the dark roasted malt, but with mild hoppiness. It’s also surprisingly light in the ABV, my bottle says 5%, and sweetness, making it appropriate as a “session beer”. If you’re looking for a domestic replacement for Guinness, this might be it.

I’ll steal the fairly poetic copy from their label:

It’s not often that a great swell coincides with a full moon. But when they collide, nature affords us a rare opportunity to paddle out long after everyone has called it a day.

These moments are a solitary pursuit with empty lineups. But those who carve graceful lines under a full moon understand how things can be dark, lonely and rewarding at the same time.

So next time you paddle in from an overcrowded beach break, remember that nothing tastes better than a cold beer after a session.

We suggest a roasty black lager for contemplating empty lineups and waves that go on for days. Most likely you’ll long for epic summer swells under moon lit sessions, opening the doors to isolation and empty secret spots on an age trying to pass us by…

With the Extreme Super Full Moon coming up on March 19th, this seems particularly appropriate!

Extreme Super (Full) Moon to Cause Chaos?

Coming up later this month (March 19 to be exact) the moon will make its closest approach to Earth (called lunar perigee) in 18 years. A new or full moon at 90% or greater of its closest perigee to Earth has been named a “SuperMoon” by astrologer Richard Nolle. This term has been recently picked up by astronomers. An extreme “SuperMoon” is when the moon is full or new as well as at its 100% greater mean perigee (closest) distance to earth. By this definition, last month’s full moon, this month’s and next month’s will all be extreme “SuperMoons”.

BOTW–San Diego County Session Ale

I have been tragically ignoring the Beer of the Week feature of this blog while concentrating on the last few Savoy “Cocktails”. I aim to rectify this oversight moving forward!

I was reading Jeff Allworth’s post on Beervana, asking for interesting beers that are sessionable: A Wish for Irregular Beer

But does it have to be? Will pale lagers always be “regular,” or will our consciousnesses expand such that some future generation has a broader definition? We are at the moment when it’s not entirely preposterous to suggest the answer may be yes. If so, we’re doing God’s work today, brewing and praising this beer that is still irregular to the vast majority of the world.

…and also Jason Wilson’s recent article in the SF Chronicle: In Search of Great Session Beer

What exactly are we looking for in a session beer? A session beer “can’t be insanely hopped, syrupy with residual sugar, or funkier than hell,” according to Lew Bryson, a respected beer and whiskey critic and managing editor of Malt Advocate. “You want a beer with a decent amount of flavor, and one that you can drink steadily, but not crazily, for several hours. And still be able to play cards without losing the house.”

In Jason’s article, he mentions the Stone Collaboration Ale “San Diego Session Ale” as one of his top picks.

I agree! A collaboration between Ballast Point, Kelsey McNair of North Park Brew Co, and Stone Brewing, it is an intensely hoppy beer that somehow manages to maintain balance and interest at a “mere” 4.2% ABV, as Jason notes, “the same alcohol as Bud Light”. Now if it were only available in six packs or on tap somewhere!

BOTW–West Coast I.P.A.

I really like every beer I have tried so far from Green Flash Brewing.

Of those I am especially fond of, their Le Freak is a pretty cool beer.

However, their West Coast IPA is probably their flagship beer.  “Extravagently Hopped”, is how they describe it on the website, and I’d agree, though not to the extent of some, cough, other Southern California brewers.

Still smarting from last week’s stew disaster, I decided to revisit, but with things I am comfortable with.  Like Pork.

Yellow Indian Woman

And Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman Beans. Soaked the beans for a couple hours and set them to cook with some garlic and herbs.


Groceries for the stew.

Country Spare Ribs

Mmmm, Got some awesome country style spare ribs at Avedano’s.  Check out that marbling!

Braising Greens

And some kale and tatsoi from a friendly face at the Allemany Farmers’ Market.


Browned the pork, sauteed some aromatic vegetables, covered it with white wine, and put it in a 325 degree oven to simmer.


Also got some nice Chanterelles from Far West Fungii at the Allemany Farmers’ Market. Roasted those off.


When the meat was getting towards tender, I removed the meat from the bone, degreased the cooking liquids, and combined the now tender beans, braising greens, and roasted chanterelles. Covered again and returned to oven.




That turned out tasty.  Walnut Bread from the Noe Valley Bakery.


Oh wait, I seem to have forgotten to take a picture of the beer.  Navarro Zinfandel with dinner this time, instead of Cabernet Sauvingon.



With my new schedule, it’s kind of weird, I’m out of sync with what seems like the rest of the working world. Thursdays are the new “Fridays” and Fridays are the new “Saturdays”, and Sundays are the new “Monday”.

On Friday, I usually sleep in and spend my day doing errands, walking the dog, and then making dinner so I can have something ready for Mrs. Flannestad when she gets home from work.

On New Years, while at our friends’ house, we had worked together on making an excellent version of the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Hungarian Beef Stew.

It was rainy and a bit cold last “Saturday”, so it seemed like a good day for Stew.  Why not revisit the success of the Hungarian Beef Stew?

Beef Paprika Stew

It turned out tasty, but a bit odd texturally. There was a gritty character I’ve never experienced with Paprika seasoned stews. Unpleasant. The only thing I can figure is that the Spicely Paprika, which I’ve never used before, is weird. Either that or the bottle was half sand.

Broccoli Rabe

Fortunately, the Broccoli Rabe from River Dog farms suffered no such textural problems. Sauteed/braised with chiles, anchovies, garlic, and raisins, it was quite delightful.

Foret Label

One of my favorite not too funky Saisons is Foret from Saison Dupont. It is truly a delightful beer.

To be honest, it has a double “nostalgia” factor which gives it extra resonance.

Back in the day, Slanted Door used to be on Church Street in San Francisco. One of Mrs. Flannestad and my favorite things was to go there and split a 750ml bottle of Saison Dupont (or two) with our dinner of shaking beef, spring rolls, etc.

Life has rolled on in the last decade or so. Slanted Door has moved (twice!) and gone on to tremendous success. Unfortunately, they no longer carry the 750ml bottles of Saison Dupont at Slanted Door, but we do carry the smaller bottles of Foret at Phan’s new Chinese Food and Cocktails venue Heaven’s Dog.

Foret in a Glass

But why buy a small bottle, when you can buy a large one?  As far as I can tell, the big difference between Foret and Saison Dupont is that Foret is organically produced.  Stylistically they are quite similar, with all the wonderful hallmarks of a good Saison.


Not entirely a successful Friday Night Dinner, but the Foret from Saison Dupont and Cabernet Sauvingon from Navarro somewhat salved my failure with the stew.

BOTW–Monk’s Blood

Monk's Blood in a can.

Monk’s Blood (pdf link) was created for the BRU/SFO project and featured during a beer and food pairing dinner Sean Paxton, aka homebrewchef held at their restaurant.  Apparently this particular beer was so successful that they decided to brew and can a batch.

Though, even after reading Jesse’s praise of the beer on his blog, I was a little worried when I read the description, “Monk’s Blood is an 8.3% alcohol, dark Belgian-style ale brewed with eight malts, Belgian candi sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, dried local black mission figs and aged on oak.”  Oof!  That’s a lot of stuff!

While it is a bit on the sweet side, there is just a touch of sour character.  Enough, at least, for me not to be overwhelmed by its sweetness.  Nor are the potentially overwhelming spices, cinnamon and vanilla, overdone.

Fig, on the other hand, comes out loud and clear in both the nose and taste.

Great as an after dinner libation, or perhaps with a nice meaty duck leg as Sean did at the dinner, Monk’s Blood is definitely a beer worth searching out.

Plus, there’s probably some joke out there whose punch line is, “Monk’s Blood in a can”.  Just think how cool it will make you sound ordering it at the bar!  Though it does make me think of a friend who takes perverse joy in hearing her straight, male friends order Speakeasy Big Daddy IPAs, “I’d like a Big Daddy, thank you very much.”

BOTW–Maredsous Brown

Maresous Brown-1

First, I really like the spiffy Belgian Beer bottles that come wrapped in paper. They are just fun. Second, I am very fond of Maredsous’ Blonde Beer.

Maredsous Brown-2

That said, Maredsous Brown was very good, but didn’t stick out in any particular way to me. There was no really interesting or unusual thing about it. Just a very good, well made beer. And that is fine, but I probably wouldn’t buy it again.