Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Burns Supper, The Haven, JP

The Haven is known around Boston as the Scottish pub with authenticity: the food, the decor, the beer list, the people. It's as if you can step off a Jamaica Plain street and stumble into a Scottish local without ever having to flash your passport. We live only a few blocks from The Haven, so when we were invited to the traditional Burns Supper, we eagerly accepted the invitation.
The Burns Supper is an annual tradition in which the life and work of poet Robert Burns is celebrated. Along with readings of Robert Burns work, a dinner of haggis is served. The Haven in Jamaica Plain fully embraces their Scottish heritage and puts on several Burns Suppers around the birthday of the poet (January 25th). We were fortunate enough to attend a dinner on the Sunday night, January 27th.
It was a fairly cold night, so we made our walk extra brisk. As we entered The Haven, we were greeted with a fresh hot toddy, a great treat that warmed us right up. While the whisky was a great start, both my wife and I immediately reached for a couple Scottish favorites: Innis & Gunn (rum cask) and a Belhaven.

Before dinner was served, Jason, The Haven's proprietor, addressed the crowd and gave his welcoming speech. Upon giving a brief history of Robert Burns and the supper named after the man, students from a local West Roxbury dance school performed authentic Scottish Highland dancing.
The main event of the night was the traditional Scottish dish, haggis. Prior to the serving of the dish was the piping of the haggis, which involves the reading of a Robert Burns poem. We received some helpful translations from Jason, but by itself is a pretty entertaining (albeit slightly confusing) reading. I took some video, and while the the video is a bit dark, the audio gives an idea of what to expect.

Even though we frequent The Haven quite often, we have never been brave enough to try the haggis. Essentially a sausage filled with oatmeal, sheep kidney, and beef heart, it certainly sounds a bit intimidating. What we found was an extremely comforting and hearty meal, similar to a ground lamb or beef with seasonings. Along with a side of mash and neeps, the meal was the perfect culmination to an authentic Scottish celebration.
The Haven has been serving Burns Supper since the restaurants inception, and they've been improving year over year. If looking for a night of entertainment, traditional, unique food, and a bit of Scottish history, keep your eyes peeled for the 2014 Burns Supper at The Haven!

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Beer with Your Frites - Saus

Saus, the little Belgian cafe known for tasty frites and waffles in Faneuil Hall, recently got approval to start serving beer on location. Here is a sneak peak at their preliminary bottle and draught list:

Gulden Draak
Lindemans Frambroise and Peche
Sixpoint Sweet Action
Trappistes Rochefort
Left Hand Milk Stout
Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale
Mystic Saison

Pretty Things Jack DÓr
Ommegang Three Philosophers
La Chouffe
Unibroue Maudite
Lagunitas Little Sumpin Sumpin
Slumbrew Portter Square Porter
Crispin Cider
Ipswich Oatmeal Stout

A fantastic list of beers that's sure to be a welcomed addition to the area, which currently lacks bars serving better beer (with the exception of The Kinsale). I walked in last night (12/8) and it didn't appear that they were serving yet; I imagine they have to do some prep work with coolers, tap lines, etc. Can't wait for these guys to get this beer program rolling.

Monday, August 8, 2011

We've Got Cone-age!

Almost three months after planting my Cascade rhizome, I've finally got some defined cones:

Cascade Hop Cones

We left for the weekend and when we came back, these were hanging from the bines. The hops had started flowering two or three weeks ago, but this was the first formed cones. I'm not sure how much bigger they'll get, but once I make an actual harvest I'll be sure to post more.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Growing Hops in the City

While living in a city definitely has it's ups for beer enthusiasts, the city home brewer is faced with a few more challenges than suburb dwellers. The biggest of these challenges is space - whether it's having to brew in the kitchen or find the environment to store and ferment beers, this is the biggest complaint I've heard from city home brewers. The other challenge is that most people in the city rent, which means there is a limited amount of work you can do to your unit or property. These same issues come up with trying to grow hops (and gardening in general, really). But if you have a back porch or small outdoor area that gets decent sunlight, a little ingenuity and a trip to the hardware store will get you a convenient set up.

The Hop Rhizome and Planting Environment

There are a large number of hop varieties that exist, and when it comes time to decide what you want to grow, you should consider your growing space and local climate. This was my first attempt at growing hops, and I knew I wanted something versatile, resilient, and relatively high-yielding. I purchased two Cascade rhizomes from Freshops.com, and they arrived in bubble wrap bags within a week.

Once I had the hop rhizomes, I took a trip to the local hardware store and purchased the following items for planting:

  • 15" tall plastic planter
  • organic potting soil w/ fertilizer
  • 6 foot plastic stake
  • gardening twine

There are plenty of resources on the web on how to plant the rhizome, but some important notes are 1) plant the rhizome with the shoots facing up, 2) plant it so the top is only a few inches below the surface of the soil, 3) make sure the soil is well aerated and can easily drain, and 4) plant the rhizome in early-mid Spring. Planting the rhizome is not difficult, and a big enough planter has plenty of room for the roots to establish.

Growing and Maintaining the Plant

It took almost two weeks for the first shoot to break the soil when I planted my Cascade rhizome. But once it was able to capture some sunlight, it took off. I used a plastic gardening stake as a means to hold a few strands of twine to create a small trellis. This should really be set up when you plant the rhizome so that no roots are damaged later on. Once the first hop shoot pops up, you want to slowly "train" the plant to grow up the twine. This won't be difficult to do, as the plant will hunt for something to grasp on to.

Hop Planter

After a month the hops reached the top of the 6 foot stake and needed more room to grow. My solution was to tie a piece of twine from the top of our patio and let it hang down to the top of the stake. You can loop the twine throughout your patio or deck in a way that you'd like the hop to grow, although it will likely still take a bit of training.

Update: Here is the plant as of 7/10:
Hop plant after 2 months

The Cascade hop rhizome has now grown to a plant that if laid out straight would be at least 15 feet tall. Smaller stems continue to expand out and off the main bine, which also is continuing to get thicker and sturdier. Once it comes time to harvest, I'll post up some more information on how successful I was.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Infinium Tasting at Sam Adams Brewery

Although I've been living in Jamaica Plain for over 6 months, I had never visited the Sam Adams brewery. So when I found out that Gilt City Boston was hosting an Infinium tasting and a brewery tour, we had to check it out! To make things even better, Jim Koch, the founder of Sam Adams, was giving the tour.

Jim Koch at Sam Adams Brewery

Jim Koch is an interesting man. Not only did he create the recipe for one of the best selling American craft beers, but he's got a good wit about him. Among his stories, jabs at the "big guys", and general banter, I managed to note some of the more interesting topics that came up on his tour of the brewery:

  • The original Jamaica Plain brewery is actually leased by Boston Beer Company, they do not own the property
  • Jim Koch comes from a family of brewers-generations before him were brewers. Jim Koch was the first to breakthrough the competition and maintain the profitable and productive brewery that stands today.
  • It was apparent during the tour that the average age of attendees was somewhere between mid 20s to mid 30s. Jim admitted and made it clear that this demographic was the future of craft beer.
  • Sam Adams 48 IPA, which was only released for the first time in 2010, is the only India Pale Ale to use hops from three different countries: Germany, UK, and the US.

Sam Adams Infinium Tasting

However, the star of the night was Infinium: a collaboration between Boston Beer Company, the largest craft brewer in the US, and Weihenstephen, the oldest continuously operating brewery in the world. The beer was presented in Champagne style flute glasses, sporting the Infinium logo in gold lettering. The beer was brewed as a traditional ale under the German Reinheitsgebot, however it was finished and stored as a Champagne. This storage allowed the beer to finish light and refreshing, with a fairly high carbonation.

Infinium by Sam Adams and Weihenstephan

Thanks again to Boston Beer Company, Gilt City Boston, and Jim Koch for an awesome night and great beer!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pumpkin Fest, Belgian Beer Fest, & Insane Tap Lists

Thanks to breweries and beer organizations both local and from afar, Boston is getting spoiled over the next week and a half in terms of awesome beer events. The two big events are at the beginning and end of the stint - Cambridge Brewing Company's Annual Pumpkin Festival and BeerAdvocate's Belgian Beer Fest.

Best Use of Pumpkins...Ever!

Tomorrow marks the third annual Cambridge Brewing Company Pumpkin Festival, which entails costumes, pumpkin beers, and a 150 pound pumpkin which is actually used as a vessel to serve beer!

Cambridge Brewing Pumpkin Festival

The beer list is incredible, specifically CBC's unique pumpkin beers: a Pumpkin Saison with Curry Spices, Pumpkin Barleywine, Barrel aged Wild Pumpkin Porter, and the list goes on.

  • When - Saturday, October 30th @ 4pm
  • Where - Cambridge Brewing Company, Cambridge, MA
  • Cost - $10 at the door and pay per serving (admission includes pint glass!)

Tomme Takes Over Armsby Abbey

Smack dab in the middle of the week is an event at Armsby Abbey in Worcester. Tomme Arthur from Lost Abbey/Pizza Port is taking over the tap lines - 22 taps of pure California goodness! The tap lines will be filled with rarities such as Devotion, 2008 Older Viscosity, Cuvee de Tomme, and Double Fruit Framboise. The specifics on this event are available over at BeerAdvocate.

  • When - Wednesday, November 3rd @ 6pm
  • Where - Armsby Abbey, Worcester, MA
  • Cost - Free admission, pay per serving

EDIT - Alec from Armsby posted on BA that Cuvee de Tomme will NOT be available at the event...according to Tomme, "its not ready yet."

Belgium in Boston

BeerAdvocate rounds out the week with the great Belgian Beer Fest and all the festivities that go along with it. While the actual festival may be well sold out, you can still get your fix of Belgium with events at The Publick House and Lord Hobo.

BBF Pre Party

Starting at 6pm on Thurday (11/4), The Publick House will be hosting the official BBF Pre-Party with co-hosts BeerAdvocate and Allagash. In addition to the expansive Belgian beer menu that The Publick House normally boasts, Allgash will be pouring a number of rare and exciting beers, including a coolship offering, Larry (wild ale), Avance (BSDA), and the two beers specifically made for the BBF - Big Little Beer and Little Big Beer.

  • When - Thursday, November 4th @ 6pm
  • Where - The Publick House, Brookline, MA
  • Cost - Free admission, pay per serving

NoTF and Lord Hobo Post Party

Friday is holds the infamous Night of the Funk, in which brewers from around the world come to show off the funkiest, tartest, most delicious beers that they could conjure up. Don't feel left out if you can't make it, Lord Hobo is throwing a serious party with vintages of Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen. The beer list posted on the BeerAdvocate event page also mentions multiple Mikkeller kegs, Jolly Pumpkin, and some Belgian classics such as De Ranke.

  • When - Friday, November 5th @ 6pm
  • Where - NOTF @ Cyclorama in South End, Post Party at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, MA
  • Cost - NOTF is soldout! Lord Hobo is free admission, pay per serving

BBF Sessions 1 & 2

The main two session of the Belgian Beer Fest take place on Saturday, with Session 1 running from 1pm to 4:30pm and Session 2 running from 6pm to 9:30pm. I'll be attending the day session, and based on previous BeerAdvocate events, expecting a great time with amazing beers.

  • When - Saturday, November 6th @ 1pm and 6pm
  • Where - Cyclorama in Boston South End, MA
  • Cost - Both sessions are soldout!

Take advantage of these events! Boston is lucky to have the beer scene it has and it pays off for all who want to enjoy!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Homebrewing: JP Pale Ale

The Fall season and cooler temperatures in New England lend themselves perfectly to home brewing in a city apartment. It's not always easy to maintain a consistent temperature without a basement or extra fridge, and an overheating fermenter is usually dealt with a cold, wet towel and a fan. With the weather this past weekend being relatively cool, I decided to brew a simple American Pale Ale. I didn't want this ale to be overly bitter, but still wanted to have a refreshing hoppiness to it. A 45 minute boil was done with a slight emphasis on finishing hops, and the shorter boil time also reduces the amount of boil-off.

JP Pale Ale

3.5 gallon boil volume
3 gallon batch (15% boil-off)

Grain Bill:
3# Extra Light DME
.5# Crystal 40L

Late extract additions: half the extract at 30 minutes, and 1/2 at 15 minutes

Hop Schedule (1 oz. Cascade & 1 oz. Centennial):
.5oz Cascade and .1oz Centennial @ 45 min.
.2oz Centennial @ 15 min.
.25oz Cascade @ 10 min.
.25oz Cascade and .2oz Centennial @5 min.

Pitched Nottingham dry yeast @ 75F

Dry hop with .5oz Centennial once target FG is reached

OG: 1.047
FG: 1.012
IBU: 38
ABV: 4.5%

I'll follow up in a few weeks time with a review of how it came out.