Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Session #116 Round-up

Despite only five participants in this month's Session on the Gose style, the discussion was lively. I led things off with a critique of sorts of what American brewers are doing to the Gose. While I've enjoyed a few modern examples of the style, I'm just not a fan of most of the untraditional fruit additions and extra hopping American brewers are injecting into their Goses.

It seems I've found a kindred spirit with Alan McCleod, who isn't a big fan of what brewers are doing with the Gose these days, either. With his typical biting wit, he decries the worst examples of the style as "Gatorade alcopop" or "salty SunnyD" and notes that what's called a "Gose" these days has little resemblance to the original examples of the style. But it's not all bad, as Alan states, "In the hands of a thoughtful brewer with a sense of tradition there is a memorable play of wheat, salt and herb that satisfies."

On the other side of the pond, Boak and Bailey largely disagree. While conceding "a few more straight Goses without fruit and other sprinkles would be nice", they prefer having a few non-traditional Goses to none at all. They particularly like "Salty Kiss" from UK Brewer Magic Rock, brewed with sea buckthorn, rosehips and English gooseberries.  Describing the contemporary Gose style, they declare, "...in general, what German Gose isn't in the 21st Century is a deeply profound, complex, challenging beer: it's a fun refresher, no more tangy than a can of Fanta, no saltier than a Jacob's cream cracker, and with coriander present but hardly obtrusive."

Josh Hubner over at Lost Lagers muses on the style's history and how modern brewers are experimenting with the Gose without taking any sides. He notes, "...there is something about a gose that makes it the perfect summer beer, and maybe that's why it's found a foothold here in the U.S. It is simultaneously tart, refreshing, light, and - hopefully - just a tad bit salty. Add some fruit to the mix, as is common among craft brewers, and also traditionally (mit schuss, as is also common with Berliner Weisse), and you have the perfect beer for a hot, sunny day."

Finally, the Beer Nut will have none of this debate.  He's just enjoying a "This Gose" brewed with lemongrass from Fyne Ales, which sent him a sample of along with a smoked salmon as a food pairing. The heavily smoked salad overpowered the Gose, so he found the pairing didn't work, though the Beer Nut seems to have enjoyed lemon grass addition, which created "...an out-of -character lemon flavour, like lemon meringue pie.....It sits rather oddly next to the other savoury elements of the flavour, but not at all unpleasantly."

That's a wrap. At this point, I'd normally direct everyone to the next host for the upcoming Session, but I don't find one listed. A year ago, Alan McCleod rescued the Session off life support, but with only five contributors this month and no host for next month, it looks like The Session is back in the emergency room. The Session's had great run, stimulating all sorts of great beer discussion and ideas for years from some of the best beer writers on the planet for years. If this is the end, it was a collective thing of beauty while it lasted.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Session #116: What happened to the Gose?

When I first discovered the Gose style three years ago, its sour/salty yin-yang balance was a refreshing antidote to the glut of so many IPAs. I knocked back quite a few Anderson Valley's  "The Kimmie, The Yink, & the Holy Gose" and also became a pretty big fan of the slightly soapy tasting Golden Gate Gose from Almanac Beer. From near extinction in the last century, this quirky sour, salty wheat beer brewed often spiced with coriander, traditionally brewed in and around the German city of Leipzig quickly became an unexpected American brewing success story.

But then, American brewers started doing what they do, fiddling around with other country's styles. Anderson Valley added blood orange to their Gose.  "It gives the beer a cool name!", enthused Anderson Valley Brewmaster Fal Allen when I interviewed him about it. Sure enough, blood orange gives Anderson Valley's Gose an extra dimension, but I'm not sure it was needed or improves upon the original version.  Anderson Valley tried a number of other spice and fruit additions to their Gose. They rejected tamerind, as sour on sour is just too much sour, but in the past year released Briny Melon Gose. I can't say I'm a fan of it. There's not much sour, there's not much salt, with the slightest hint of melon. It's basically a very light fruit wheat beer.

Sierra Nevada made a big splash this year adding Otra Vez Gose to their year around line-up. Sierra Nevada takes the sour salty mix and adds cactus and then grapefruit, and I taste.....confusion.

Recently, I was talking to Calicraft's Blaine Landberg about his Citra Gose, brewed with significant and highly untraditional Citra hop additions. Landberg explained his thought process this way: "I asked myself “How do you make a great Margarita?” rather than “How do you make a great Gose?"" As much as I'm a fan of most of Calicraft's beers, I wish Landberg had simply tried to brew a Gose rather than a Margarita. The Citra hops just clash with everything else in his version.

Now Saint Archer released a Blackberry Gose which I wanted to hate, but couldn't. Saint Archer always seemed more like a marketing construct than an actual brewery, with their acquisition by MillerCoors not particularly surprising. This unfortunately overshadows the fact that Saint Archer makes some first rate brews. Their Blackberry Gose is one of them, the tartness of the blackberry effortlessly harmonizing with the underlying Gose.

I could go on, but I think you're getting the idea. Breweries used to brew light wheat beers with fruit additions, often as "gateway" beers for those more comfortable with mass market lagers.  Now, they seem to be brewing the same beers with a whisper of salt, some sourness, a pinch of coriander and viola', a tired wheat fruit beer becomes a hip and happening Gose. Instead of embracing the sour-salty balance of the Gose, brewing seem to be running away from it. Dead German brewmasters have every right to be spinning in their graves.

Is it too much to ask for breweries to make a good Gose and stop right there?

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Running Lesson Relearned with the Milestone Pod

Twenty five years ago, I was running a 400 meter interval workout on the track, huffing and puffing through the one-lap intervals at 72-74 seconds. An older man watching me struggle through the work-out walked over and told me, "On this next interval, pretend there're iron bars attached to the insides of your ankles and if you don't lift your foot over them, you'll trip and fall."  Just concentrating on getting my foot over these imaginary bars implanted in my ankles, my next interval felt a lot easier. Looking down at my stop watch, I was shocked to see I completed this lap in 68 seconds. Turns out this stranger had once coached an Olympic hurdler, and this was a mental trick he used to improve knee lift. I never forgot that advice and how important getting good knee lift is to good running form. To this day, I still tell myself "Step over the bar" when I feel myself struggling at the latter stages of a race or workout.

I haven't stumbled upon an Olympic coach since, but in the past year, I started using the Milestone pod, a small accelerometer strapped to my shoe to capture stride metrics like stride length, foot impact, running cadence and ground contact time. It actually captures my running pace through the course and the run and Milestone phone app plots my running pace versus the various captured form metrics.

Graph from the Milestone Pod
App showing pace increasing
with Stride Length
Within minutes after finishing my morning runs, I find myself downloading the data from my Milestone pod to check out out how my run went. Stride length has turned out to be the best predictor of running pace. Stride length is a good function of knee lift and earlier this year when I was battling a hip issue, I could feel myself not getting good knee lift, and could see that problem in the Milestone pod data. Training for the Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon has been going well this fall, and the Milestone pod has definitely helped maintain the form I need to help meet my goals for this race at the end of the month.

If this sounds like an endorsement for the Milestone pod, that's because it is.  The Milestone folks approached me last year about testing out their device, and they've have been great to work with, being very patient and understanding with my feedback on the pod. Even if I had paid for both of the pods I've trialed for them, the $25 cost for the pods would amount to a few pennies per run, a bargain for all the great data the pod aqcquires from each run. So yeah, I'm glad to tell others about the Milestone pod because their little gadget has really helped my running and I hope they continue to be successful at it.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Scenes from Tuolumne Meadows

There's been a vacation induced lull in blogging due to my family's annual Yosemite trip. This time, we went to Tuolumne Meadows rather than the Yosemite Valley, which doesn't contain all the iconic views, but has it's own spectacular scenery none-the-less. Sorry, nothing about beer, grilling or running here, just some pictures from that great weekend. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Session #116 Announcement : Anything Gose

As the host for the 116th Beer Blogger Session, I'm asking everyone to write about the Gose style, mostly unknown for much of the The Session's nearly ten year history. In just the past 2-3 years, the Gose has become one of the fastest growing beer styles despite its unusual blend of sour and saltiness. Heady times for the Gose style that not all that long ago was nearly extinct.

Speaking of extinction, I notice there are no volunteers listed to host future Session topics. So if you want to keep this Session thing going, consider hosting one. You can find out how to host a future Session at the bottom of this link.

Back to this month's Session, I choose the Gose style in particular since it can be approached in so many different ways. Want to talk about the history of the Gose?  How about how American breweries are taking this style and running wild with it with different spice and fruit additions?  How else has the Gose manifested itself outside its German homeland?  Is the Gose here to stay or will it go the way of the Black IPA, once the hot style but slowly becoming a largely irrelevant curiosity?  (OK, that might not be your opinion of the Black IPA, but you get the idea.) Of course, we're all on the look-out for a good Gose, so if there are any you particularly like, we'd love to hear about them.

Just post you contribution the first Friday of October, the 7th and leave a link in this post's comments section. Or you can e-mail the link to me at photon.dpeterman[at]gmail(dot)com.  A few days later, I'll post the round-up of everyone's contribution.

And make sure you pronounce "Gose" correctly.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Rambling Reviews 8.19.2016: Dry Hopped Steam from Anchor, 10 Barrel's Cucumber Crush, and JC Flyer IPA from Iron Springs

Once again it's time to ramble about three notable beers I've tried over the past couple weeks.

We'll start out with Anchor's great twist on their iconic flagship. I'm talking about Anchor Dry Hopped Steam Beer. There's a little more to Dry Hopped Steam than just the dry hopping as Anchor Brewmaster Scott Ungermann also lightened the traditional Anchor Steam recipe for the dry hopped version. “We took our most popular, classic beer and gave it a contemporary twist by introducing a lighter body and an elevated, dynamic hop profile using new and classic hop varieties," states Ungermann in a press release. The dry hopped version is lighter and brighter than traditional Anchor Steam, with the floral hop aromas you'd expect from a dry hopped brew. It's still got the classic complex roasty and slightly woody character, it's just dialed down a bit to let the floral hops through. What's interesting is drinking the dry hopped version and the traditional one side by side to contrast the deeper, richer flavors of Achor's traditional Steam with the new, more contemporary version These days, a lot of the older craft breweries like Anchor struggle a bit to remain relevant in the fast moving brewing industry. Dry Hopped Steam shows Anchor has effortlessly overcome this challenge.

Next beer up is Cucumber Crush Sour from 10 Barrel Brewing. 10 Barrel takes a lot of flack from selling to corporate beer giant AB InBev , which reminds me of the time I was at an small coffee shop across the street from a Starbucks. On the coffee shop wall, there were all sorts of signs saying things like "Corporate coffee was evil", "Starbuck Sucks", and various other derision thrown at the Starbucks across the street. There was just one small problem: Their coffee was noticeably inferior to Starbucks. Say what you want about the evil diabolical plans of AB InBev, and while I likely agree with you, 10 Barrel is demonstrably one of America's better breweries, still going strong since the acquisition. Cucumber Crush is yet another example. There's light flavors of cucumber with a fruity, strawberry-like clean tartness. That's it.  Yet, this simple, straightforward uncluttered combination is just ridiculously refreshing.

Finally, we come to JC Flyer IPA from Iron Springs Brewing in Marin County's Fairfax. With family in Marin County, I drop by the Iron Springs Brewpub every so often and have enjoyed this West Coast style IPA. It's citrusy, with tangerine flavors dominating, with some piney notes and a little resiny stickiness. The malt basically stays out of the way. Just another in the long line of solid-to-great IPA's you find all over the place in California.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Smoked Pork Chops with Cherry Balsamic Sauce

The apple smoked pork chops are ready
Sometimes our family has a "Chopped" dinner. You know the show "Chopped" where the contestants have to make an appetizer, entree' or dessert from the ingredients in the mystery baskets? Well, my wife and kids pick four ingredients at the grocery store without telling me what they are in advance, bring them home and my challenge is to dinner must be made from these four ingredients. It's fun challenge and since everyone must actually eat whatever I cook, stuff  the normally befuddle the Chopped contestants like sea urchin roe or lamb brains never show up in the mystery basket.

One evening, the mystery ingredients were cherries, ham, okra, and pistachios. I figured a cherrird would taste good on the ham, so I whipped up a cherry sauce. As we ate dinner, I'm thinking, this sauce would taste even better on some smoked pork chops.

So the Cherry Balsamic Sauce recipe  below is based on that summer evening of improvising a sauce from a bag of fresh cherries on Chopped night. Use fresh cherries in season if you can get them, but frozen cherries work too. Feel free to play around a bit with the levels of sweetness, spiciness, and saltiness of the sauce and tweak it to your liking.

For smoking the pork chops, I use thicker chops and put them edge down on the grill, maximizing the surface area to capture the smoke flavors. Apple wood works for me here, but you could use also cherry, pecan or another lighter fruity wood.  In my opinion hickory or mesquite smoke would be a little too strong. Smoking the chops indirectly at 300-350 degrees on my Weber gas grill for roughly 45 minutes, I get a pretty juicy pork chop.

I'm a beer guy, but if you ask my, smoked pork chops with cherry balsamic sauce spooned on top scream out for a good glass of Pinot.  Enjoy!

Cherry Balsamic Sauce

1 cup pitted fresh cherries ( 1 1/4 cup frozen cherries)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper

Bring the ingredients to a simmer on a stove top reducing it to a syrup. Spoon over four 1/2 pound pork chops smoked with apple, cherry, or pecan wood at 300-500 degrees for approximately 45 minutes and serve.