Monthly Archives: November 2014

A Beer to Savor – Schell’s

Nestled in the rolling wooded hills of central Minnesota is the bucolic Germanic themed enclave of New Ulm MN.  It is a beautiful town with all the small-town trappings you would expect.  A hometown café and sportsbar sit in juxtaposition with the ever-present mall mentality that has overtaken America.  However New Ulm has one treasure that cannot be found anywhere else in the world—The world Famous Schell’s Brewing Company.

Schell’s is in its7th generation of having the same family working and creating great beers from their beautiful, well groomed gardener’s paradise of a brewery.  On a trip to the rustic brewery I was entranced by the old fashioned buildings and the great little museum showing all the history of the family thru the years.  A walk thru the gardens evoked a time past where you could enjoy the finer things in life such as good conversation, amazing scenery, and even the occasional Peacock strolling in front of your path!  However the absolute highlight of any trip to the brewery is the Beer!

Schell’s has been making beers for over a hundred years.  It has survived world wars, temperance movements, prohibition, great depressions, and even changing beer preferences!  They have had an explosion of new beers and creative ideas in the past few years.  They have continued making their standard Deer Brand lager, while expanding their roster of beers with a huge variety of yearlong staples and great seasonal offerings, along with a new initiative to create one of kind offerings where they stretch the imagination of their brew makers and consumers alike!

They have developed the Stag series of beers and the Noble Star series of beers.  These are limited release and hard to find innovative, yet nostalgic beers that are one of a kind treat fro your taste buds.

Stag Series is an innovative series of beers released throughout the year.  Their latest is the #8.  The Stag #8 is a blonde dopplebock made in collaboration with a German based brewery. Both breweries are family owned and have over 570 years combined experience.  Using a wide variety of hops, this unique beer has full flavor but is very drinkable!

The Noble star series are Berlin style wheat beers.  They are aged in rare cypress tanks that Schell’s bought in 1936.  These tanks are a one of a kind tool to create beers that simply can never be recreated!  They are all bottle conditioned, hand labeled and hand filled.  Truly a connoisseur’s beer!  Their latest release is the North Country Brunette.  It has a spicy complex flavor that can only come from the unique cypress aging tanks.  It is tart and dry with a slightly fruity flavor.

All Stag series and Noble Star beers are limited and hard to find!  If you find one, snatch it up because you will probably never see it again!

The everyday beers of Schell’s should not be forgotten.  They have a great sampler pack that allows you to try 3 of their staple offerings while also offering a rotating seasonal beer that fits the climate and desires of Minnesota and the world.

My Favorite is the Firebrick.  It is a Vienna style lager with a reddish hue.  It has a nice malty flavor with a touch of hops to give it the bitterness you need in a good beer!  Also don’t forget the Schell’s Dark.  A great everyday dark beer that fits every occasion!

Coming soon is my favorite seasonal beer. Oktoberfest.  A perfect blend of malts and hops, Crimson to deep brown in color, Oktoberfest beer is a great item and the history behind the recipe is a story of the ages.  In September I will retell the epic tale of Love and celebration that spawned Oktoberfest beer and its traditions.  Schell’s makes one of the best Oktoberfest beers and should never be missed!

As the locavore movement gains momentum, we need to remember to drink locally too!  Schell’s is a Minnesota treasure that should never be forgotten!  And if your travels take you to central Minnesota, you have to stop and visit—it is well worth the trip!

By |November 11th, 2014|Beer Blogs|Comments Off on A Beer to Savor – Schell’s

Tequila Time

Summer is upon us, with that the margarita season has begun.  Of course the most important ingredient of a margarita is Tequila!  We all have or know someone with a horrible story about Tequila that probably makes many avoid it.  Tequila, aside from being a great mixer for margaritas, when done well can make some of the finest spirits on earth.  In my opinion, Tequila has the largest range of quality in the spirits world.  Some of the best drinks I’ve had and also some of the worst drinks I have had have been Tequila.

What makes one Tequila taste great, and another that makes you queasy when you smell it?  Like any fine spirit, it is the ingredients and also the type of ageing it goes through.  The main ingredient in Tequila must be, by law, agave.  Because of the famous red volcano soil around the town of Tequila and Jalisco, many believe that agave grows best here.  By law, Tequila must come from this region. The two basic categories of tequila are mixtos and 100% agave.Mixtos use no less than 51% agave, with other sugars making up the remainder. Jose Cuervo is the best known example of a Mixto.  100% agave Tequila must use 100% agave.  Be careful, it must say 100% on the label.  Some Tequila’s will simply say “made with agave”.  These are not 100% agave Tequilas!  The major flavor difference with 100% agave Tequila is that it is more vegetal, complex and usually smoother than mixtos.

The other major factor in making quality Tequila is the aging process.  There are 5 categories that denote the amount of ageing.  These terms are usually on the label.

  • Blanco or plata is white Tequila.  It is unaged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation.  It is usually stored in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels.  While often times a bit harsher, many people prefer this style because it gives you a much more pure expression of the agave.  Blanco is also the preferred type to mix in a margarita or other tequila drinks.
  • Joven or oro:  this is unaged Blanco tequila that is colored and flavored with caramel
  • Reposado:  aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels.  The type and size of barrels may vary.  Some prefer new oak barrels to impart a stronger oak flavor, others may use used whiskey or cognac barrels.  Others may use huge barrels that will also weaken the oak flavors.  The type of oak barrels is nearly endless.  Each decision by the distiller can affect the taste of the Tequila.  This is what makes Tequila so interesting!
  • Anejo: is aged for a minimum of one year, but less than three years in small oak barrels.  They must use small barrels no larger than 158 gallons to impart a stronger oak influence
  • Extra Anejo: is aged a minimum of three years in oak.  This is a relatively new category only established in 2006.

Reposado and anejo tequilas, because of the ageing process, are often smoother, subtler and much more complex than other types.  This is because during the ageing process the Tequila will take on many of the characteristics of the wood it is aged on.  Like many other spirits, the wood and ageing is very important in the complexity and flavor of Tequila.

One of the most important things I can tell you is don’t be scared off by all of those nightmare stories that involve Tequila.  Fine Tequila imbibed in moderation can be as satisfying as drinking the finest whiskey or brandy.

By |November 11th, 2014|Spirits Blog|Comments Off on Tequila Time

Great Summertime Cocktails

There can be nothing better than a long tall cocktail on a summer night!  During the fleeting summer months we need to take the time and enjoy the pleasure of mixing a great drink.  I agree that the utter simplicity of cracking an ice cold beer open, pouring the golden brown ale into a frozen pint mug, and letting it cascade over your parched taste buds is a summer rite and will quench your thirst—but taking the time to craft a cocktail can be just as satisfying.  Sometimes the journey is better than the end result!

The burgeoning mixology movement is bringing new flavors to our consciousness, but also is bringing back some old classics!  New items like St Germain Elderflower liqueur and Pama Pomegranate liqueur are awesome to try and will amaze you with cool flavors and never before tasted delights.  But sometimes the simplicity of the classic Gin and Tonic with a twist is just as good!

Gin and Tonics have been around for hundreds of years.  First popularized in England since the 1700’s , The Brits have long toasted the long summer nights with a classic Tanqueray and tonic or Beefeater gin.  These are two of the standards in the Gin world.  Years of tradition have made them the perfect gins!  The juniper flavors shine thru to create the slight piney flavor we all love in gin!  Fill a long tall glass with pure ice, add a couple of ounces of gin, fill with tonic water, and spritz a little lime over the top and then garnish with the lime!

St Germain has taken the world by storm.  It was introduced to our palates a few years ago.  It took customers a while to figure out what to do with the unique liqueur.  But now it is flying off the shelves!  It is a delicate liqueur made with fresh elderflowers.  It is handcrafted in France using age-tested methods.  It is a true testament to the French custom of taking it easy and doing things the right way! It is a great mixer to many cocktails.  But my favorite is the Elderflower Cocktail.  Get a chilled Collins glass, fill with ice, 2oz of St Germain, 3 ounces of Champagne (brut or extra dry) and soda water.  Garnish with a lemon twist.  It is amazingly simple—but the flavor is pretty cool and will make you feel fancy and European for the afternoon!

Pama Liqueur can be used as an additive to many cocktails. My wife and I were walking thru the liquor store one day, and the unique crimson colored bottle caught our eye.  I had never tried it, but was intrigued!  So we took a bottle home and started experimenting!  Being a thirsty guy and a martini lover, I immediately grabbed my Chopin Vodka, a shaker, and made a Pama Martini.  The Pomegranate flavor blew me away.  It was slightly sweet—but not so much as a cosmopolitan or other girly drinks!  Even though the drink had a pinkish color, I was secure enough to enjoy the great flavors!  My wife, ever the contrarian, decided to make a mojito with the Pama added in.  I had to admit—her mojito was amazing!  She used great rum, fresh mint from my neighbor’s garden, fresh squeezed limejuice, her homemade simple syrup, and her favorite muddling tool to create this awesome Pama Mojito.  I hate to lose any competition —but this was worth it!!

This is the smallest sampling of a few drinks you can make in the summer time.  The most important thing to remember is don’t be afraid!  There is a plethora of recipes available.  But sometimes just turning your creativity loose can create an awesome summer drink.  But Just in case you fail don’t despair–the Ice-cold Beer can still satisfy!  Whatever edge of the spectrum you fall into—enjoy and savor the fleeting days of summer with a great adult beverage!

By |November 11th, 2014|Spirits Blog|Comments Off on Great Summertime Cocktails