Monthly Archives: March 2015

March Beer & Wine of the Month Club

Believe it or not, we did not search far and wide for Irish-made beers & wines this month (do Irish wines exist, even?) We can’t all be Irish, but we think that, in this otherwise bleak time, everyone deserves to get caught up in celebrating heritage. So rather than focus our attention on strictly Irish-style edibles this March, we sought out beers that speak to taste of place everywhere. What we found were brewers appropriating other country’s styles to make a beer all their own, and others sticking purely to a style that’s been enjoyed seasonally for centuries. We found a Haitian women deeply influenced by Irish culture, and a mad scientist using Scotch whiskey to lend meaning to a sweet tooth.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThe palate of a wine-drinker is even harder to please in March—we’re still layering up and cuddling under blankets, but the days are getting noticeably longer and we’re starting to see tiny batches of asparagus instilling hope into the supermarket produce section . We wanted these wines to represent the bipolarity of this time—we crave fresh earth & floral bounty, yet we aren’t kicking a velvety Spanish red out of bed. We’ve assembled a a selection of wines made by real back-to-the-landers, hippie vintners whose passion for the earth is right in line with our yearning for the year’s first tulip bud. These guys live and die by the soil—at Illahe they use horse-drawn carts to transport grapes, while Case Corini is run by a former soil scientist.

There is still plenty of the dark, brooding richness we reach for in colder months here, but we’re starting to see the lighter styles making a comeback, too. Much like the slow-but-steady thaw occurring outside, these drinks leave behind the faintest glimmer of hope—hope that these sunny days might stay, hope that daffodils might be just around the corner, and hope for the crisp pale ales, zippy whites, & refreshing golden suds of summer.

The Libations

Birra del Borgo ReAle Extra: An American Pale Ale from an Italian brewery? We research beer a lot here, but we honestly couldn’t predict how this one was going to taste. A hoppier variation on this brewer’s traditional pale ale, it is made in the commune of Borgorose in the Lazio region of central Italy. It explodes with aromas of pine & citrus, and surprises you with simultaneous malty tropical sweetness and a bone dry, clean mouthfeel. Crisp with a rich foamy head, this light brown ale pours lively and robust and will offer refreshing comfort to the heat of your Craic Pikliz. ABV {6.2%}

IMG_2955Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier: Fastenbier literally means “lent beer,” and it is brewed for enjoyment during the 40 days between Ash Wednesday & Easter. This traditional German Rauchbier (a smoked style) is only available for that select period each year, and is brewed at Brauerei Heller-Trum in Bamberg according to Bavarian Purity Law enacted in 1516. Made with spelt and plenty of malts to give it a hefty body, this unfiltered beer has the “Brotzeit included,” which is a German word for afternoon snack. It has only faint smokiness, redolent of pork rinds and beechwood, and kept in check by dried fruit flavors & mild hop bitterness. This one is complex enough to serve as a substitute for whatever you gave up for lent! ABV {5.5%}

Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Cask Stout: This English Stout from the U.K. (Scotland, to be exact) is, like most other things in this box, not specifically Irish. But then neither are most of the drunkards stumbling around this time of year, right? Deep brown and velvety smooth, it hits you right away with a nose full of whiskey, before revealing a medley of sticky toffee, espresso, dates, vanilla, and charred wood on the palate. The sturdy Scottish stout is special to begin with, even before it matures on American Heartwood that’s been infused with Irish Whiskey. This award-winning beer has extremely limited availability, so we’re happy to present you with it at such an appropriate time! Plus, we hear if you drink it while wearing green, you won’t get a hangover…but don’t quote me on that.  ABV {7.4%}

Case Corini Monferrato Rosso Bricco 2009: Crafted on the vine by soil scientist and vintner Lorenzo Corini in Piedmont’s Monferrato region, this field blend of Barbera & Nebbiolo was grown on hillsides at the highest peak of the Case Corini vineyards. Lorenzo’s background in the sciences translates to wines that represent the entire ecosystem they hail from, and this 100% organic vineyard’s terroir is at the forefront of Corini’s wines. This wine is dense with dark, complex fruit. Its production is so natural, you might find a bit of a prickle to it upon opening—nothing a little decanting or vigorous swirling won’t fix! Pair this earthy beast with your Hubaner cheese for a good time.

Domaine Ventura Vina do Burato 2012: The 100% Mencía grapes for this wine are grown in damp, slate-rich soil, in one of Spain’s most stunning landscapes, the Ribeira Sacra. Families have grown grapes there since the Romans, despite the difficulty in utilizing the steep terraces lining the gorgeous canyons. All farming at Domaine Ventura is done by hand by Ramón Losada and his family using natural, organic methods. The grapes are monitored closely for maturity, only indigenous yeast is used to start fermentation, and none of the wines are filtered. Medium-bodied with notes of rose petal and red fruits, this wine is framed by fresh, assertive tannins. Pair with your Pikliz and a fresh cheese.

IMG_2961Illahe Viognier 2014: From Willamette Valley vintners Illahe, who focus on making wines that capture the variety of soils on their stunning 80 acre estate, comes an effusive bottle full of apricot, honeycomb, and peach flavors. The 100% Viognier grapes are sourced from Goschie Farms in Silverton, Oregon, and Plagmann Vineyards near Albany. The wine is 100% sustainably farmed, from the hand-harvesting and de-stemming to the use of solar panels and two horses, Doc & Bea, who mow and bring grapes to the winery at harvest. Subtle acidity and floral notes remind us of lime and gardenia, instilling in us a hope for brightness soon to come! Pair with your Hubaner cheese or caramels.

The Snacks

Sennerei Huban HubanerMade from the raw milk of 34 small dairy farms (average herd size is 15 cows), this silky mountain cheese is aged eight months. Bearing a strong resemblance to Appenzeller & Raclette, the Hubaner packs a less pungent punch than its Alpine brethren. Its paste is unbelievably smooth & clean, speckled throughout with pea-sized holes. Redolent of cooked butter, toasted hazelnuts, and fresh-mowed grass, this cheese balances sweetness and meltability with a slightly spicy sharp finish. Rich and creamy, it is excellent washed down with anything chilled, but we think it shines particularly well beside the Illahe Viognier or nutty brown ales like the Innis & Gunn.

IMG_2957The Craic & Blonde Haitian Pikliz“The Craic” is the Irish spice of life, their word for excitement, entertainment, joie de vivre. And for Blonde Beauchamp, who is Haitian, studied in Ireland, and now cooks in a JP kitchen, that sentiment seemed like the perfect way to capture her outlook on life. Blonde first brought her effervescent personality and ebullient spirit into our shop last December, overflowing with excitement over her new product, Haitian pikliz (pron. pick-lese). She makes this fiery slaw at the Crop Circle Kitchen in JP using cabbage, habaneros, carrots & onions, and recommends using it on everything from eggs to bloody marys to guacamole. It was cultural fusion that brought Blonde her dream company, and she encourages everyone to use her pikliz to do some fusing of their own!

McCrea’s Highland Single Malt Scotch Caramels: Ok, we know Scotch is not technically Irish/March-appropriate, but I doubt you’ll be splitting hairs when you bite into one of these soft, boozy chews. They are crafted by chemist Jason McCrea, who brings a scientific determination and specificity to his goal of creating the most perfect caramel possible. Dedicated to honesty and integrity in our food systems, too, Jason and his team make their caramels out of Hyde Park, MA and deliver them to us fresh. For this flavor, they slow-cook sugar to a precise temperature to ensure smooth, creamy texture, then add a Single Malt Scotch with a hint of peat, to play against the sweetness and produce a lingering, smoky finish.

Call the store at (617) 269-6100, email us at info@americanprovisions.com, or ask a staffer for more information on signing yourself or someone you love up for the Beer or Wine of the Month Club! 

Drink Craft Beer & Cheese Fest 2015

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Random people who wanted their picture taken.

Say “Cheese!”

…was the completely appropriate, albeit admittedly corny phrase I shouted to the attendees of Drink Craft Beer & Cheese Fest, on Saturday, February 28th. Although I was not press coverage for the event, the large camera and flash I was toting around were enough to prompt fellow fest-goers to request pictures of themselves (which I happily obliged).

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Clockwise from top left: Toby from Peak Organic, the booth at Pretty Things Brewery, & Cricket Creek Creamery.

I have a love/hate relationship with beer festivals. On the one hand, they’re wonderful because you get to try so many beers from talented brewers all in one setting, while mingling with fellow beer lovers. Yet the same applies to why they’re loathsome: you try so many beers in a short period of time that it becomes difficult to remember said beers, therefore diminishing their uniqueness (not to mention the inevitability of a giant hangover the next day). Drink Craft Beer & Cheese Fest, however, was a different story. As the beer buyer at American Provisions, I got to attend this event as a representative of my store, an individual with a purpose (other than getting smashed at a beer fest). I was there to try new beers from several of the breweries we support, connect on a personal level with these companies, and witness any interesting pairings happening between the beers and cheeses that we love.

And despite what my boss may believe, I did not show up at work with a hangover the next day!

This was the first beer AND cheese event for Drink Craft Beer, so it was very exciting to see so many of AP’s beloved breweries and creameries all under the same roof. Uncertain of where to begin the epic event, I hung back by Toby of Peak Organic, who graciously started me off with a soothing cup of their cask-conditioned Nut Brown Ale. Peak Organic is a killer brewery from Maine, focused on local ingredients and awesome brews. Their line up that night included Hop Noir (a black IPA), Espresso Amber Ale, which was continuously pronounced “X-presso” (much to Toby’s chagrin), and Citrus Saison, a Belgian style saison that invigorated me with the promise of warmer days to come.

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Clockwise from top left: Al Snape from Far From the Tree Cider, many happy festival-goers, Joe & Erin for Vermont Creamery, and Mayflower Brewing. 

Armed with Nut Brown Ale, I set off into the crowd, ready to taste. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wander far to find a familiar face: Al Snape from Far From The Tree Cider was at a nearby booth, sampling up four new cider concoctions that we have been eagerly waiting to try since our visit with them back in January (read about it here!) The new cider offerings were Lust, a cherry cranberry cider; Cord, an oaked maple cider; Juno, a maple ice cider; and Milanowski’s Nightmare, a sour dry-hopped cider. While they were all delicious & seriously unique, Juno stood out with its velvety consistency and intense depth of flavor (check back with us in a few months to see these new products on our shelves).

We were stoked to see more familiar faces in the form of former AP-staffers, Joe Quintero & Erin McIver, at the Vermont Creamery table. Joe left AP to become the New England sales rep for VC, while Erin now works as the marketing coordinator for hip food site BostonChefs.com. This dynamic duo was shelling out samples of Coupole, Cremont, & Bonne Bouche, three of our favorite goat and cow cheeses. According to Erin & Joe, the creameries attending the event each brought 100lbs of cheese for the three sessions of the Drink Craft event (a bit of an over-estimate, in Joe’s opinion). A few other creameries I spoke to had an excess cheese leftover at the end of the night—it seems that Drink Craft Beer was following the Boy Scout motto to always be prepared!

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The booths of Bantam Cider, Smuttynose Brewing, & Allagash Brewing.

The event was filled to the brim with a wide range of local cheeses. Narragansett Creamery, for example, challenged the norm by serving up a hot sample of their Mediterranean-style grilling cheese. Old classics held strong in the form of aged cheddars from the ladies at Cabot Creamery—they encouraged you to pair these sharp and sweet hunks of cheese with hoppy libations like Wormtown’s Be Hoppy & Notch’s Left of the Dial. The crew at Jasper Hill Cellars pulled out all the stops with an array of cheeses—Alpha Tolman, a nutty Alpine style; Bayley Hazen Blue, one of the best blue cheeses around; and Moses Sleeper, a Vermont take on the classic Brie style. Their table display also provided attendees with an anatomy lesson on the source of all things good: the cow.

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Clockwise from top left: Narragansett Creamery, Cabot Creamery, the anatomy poster from Cellars at Jasper Hill, and Robinson Farm. 

My next cheese stop was a very special creamery, Robinson Farm from Hardwick, MA. Raymond & Pamela Robinson were not at the event, but Pamela’s son Ben was there promoting the farm’s cheeses. It was because of Ben (who lives in Southie) that the Robinson’s cheese, Tekenink Tomme, became one of the first cheeses ever to be sold at American Provisions. I was able to chat with Ben and his crew while enjoying samples of Tekenink, Barndance, & Arpeggio—their strong bloomy rind cows milk cheese, which paired especially well with the always wonderful Wunderkind cider from Bantam.

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Clockwise from top left: Chris from Notch Brewing, Otter Creek Brewing Co., Idle Hands Craft Ales, & the folks at Rising Tide.

Many more stellar pairings between cheese and beer were formed that night, several of which I don’t remember or was not witness to, but the spirit of the fest makes me believe they existed. Some of the pairings that I do remember were suggested in Drink Craft Beer’s fest guide, while others were born out of mere fate. Otter Creek’s Kind Rye IPA was quite the match against several cheddars in the house, specifically the suggested Grafton Village’s Extra Mature Cheddar. I discovered my own pairing between Notch Brewing’s luscious Černe Pivo (Notch’s founder Chris Lohrig explained to me the name is Czech for “black beer”) and a creamy piece of Berkshire Bloom from Cricket Creek Farm. Over at Idle Hands, I indulged with Triplication—their Abbey style tripel—which provided the perfect amount of spice and fruity flavor to complement the buttery, nutty notes of Jasper Hill’s Alpha Tolman (and the guys at Idle Hands were kind enough to inform me that a Wild Turkey barrel-aged version of Triplication will be out in a few weeks!)

Now, it was probably around this time in the night that my conversations were becoming less focused, my notes were barely legible, and my camera felt like it gained 20lbs. This is also when my distrust of beer festivals began to surface. Though abundant and delicious, cheese samples can only sustain a fest-goer for so long. Which is why I (and I bet many others at the fest) was psyched to remember that, strategically stationed in the corner of the event, were the stands of KO Pies & Roxy’s Grilled Cheese. The employees of these two companies didn’t need to try very hard to entice buzzed attendees, as each beer sample we consumed made the idea of a savory pie or grilled sandwich seem more and more desirable. The intoxicating smells wafting from Roxy’s grills and the mesmerizing glow from KO Pies’ cases didn’t hurt either.

KO Pies, Ben sampling Robinson Farm cheese, Roxy's Grilled Cheese, & cheese sample from Jasper Hill Cellars

Clockwise from top left: The always tempting KO Pies, Ben sampling Robinson Farm cheese, beautifully plated samples from Jasper Hill Cellars, and Roxy’s ladies slinging their grilled cheese.

As claimed before, I did not leave this event completely hammered, despite what usually happens at beer festivals. We can’t say the same for other attendees that night—the crowd increasingly became livelier as the night stretched on, and inhibitions were thrown to the wind with ease. I began to wonder how the inevitable intoxication of fest-goers was being perceived by the very people responsible, the brewers, so I decided to ask them.

The best response I received was from Billy Morrissey, the sales rep for Allagash Brewing. Now, I’d like to believe that Billy and I were equally excited to meet each other—I was extremely excited to learn that he was the reason AP receives specialty Allagash beers, while his excitement might have been directed at the awesomeness that is American Provisions generally, and reminiscing about visits there. I don’t mind taking the credit, though—but I digress.

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Clockwise from top left: Random fest-goers, volunteers, Drink Craft Beer tattoos, and Billy from Allagash Brewing.

As streams of drunken attendees pushed past us to sample more beers, Billy explained to me his feelings about their debauchery. He suggested that there was a difference between drunken fools at a festival and beer lovers who are enjoying themselves with their favorite brews. Honest interest and enjoyment of the beers is what was important to Billy. He reminded me that our shared love for craft beers (and artisan cheeses) was what brought us all together. And it is that experience that is so integral to the craft beer world. Cheers to that!

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Guy who needs a beer, and my best friend Lindsay (in the glasses) posing with Wormtown Brewery.