Hi friends! This has been quite the month. Steve and I leave for Belgium SO soon and we couldn’t be more excited. We’ve also closed on our first home and I can’t wait to add in some posts here about design/home updates, etc! However, I wanted to get you one more recipe before I take a week and a half off for our vacation. Since we’re going to be tasting all kinds of Belgium beer, I thought a Beer Mac & Cheese would be appropriate!
This is an ooey gooey cheesy noodle dish and while it was good as leftovers, I felt like it tasted best fresh. Kind of like how kraft mac n’ cheese is just not the same when you heat it up the next day. I encourage you to use a light beer and nothing too astringent in this recipe. While the alcohol cooks off as you make the sauce, the taste from the hops and malt remain. Enjoy!
A thick white cheese sauce over your favorite pasta or veggie based noodles!
cheese, pasta, plant pasta
1boxpasta(I used Banza pasta for added protein and fiber since I didn’t add veggies or meat IN this dish)
1bunchgreen onions, chopped
3tbspwhole wheat flour(You can use all purpose too)
2/3cupbeer, at room temp(I used an IPA)
1 and 1/3cupmilk(we keep powdered milk on hand and make it as needed)
2cupsmozzarella(1 block or pre shredded)
dashsalt, for pasta
Cook noodles according to packaging. I’ve been experimenting with Banza pasta right now and you definitely want to add in a dash of salt to the water and spray the noodles with some cooking spray after you drain/rinse them. This way they don’t stick together.
Put your noodles aside.
Use the same pot and add your butter and 1/2 of your chopped green onions. Saute until butter is melted.
Add your flour for 1 minute and use a whisk to mix it with the butter, it will be thick and chunky.
Start pouring the beer into the pot. Don’t dump it it from above, pour it gradually in and whisk it with the flour/butter.
Slowly pour your milk in and whisk. Turn up your heat to get it bubbling/simmering lightly.
Start adding your shredded cheese and continuing whisking. Whisk and let it sit for a bit until bubbles rise. Whisk again and wait, repeat this until it starts to become a thick gooey cheesy sauce. This can take about 5-8 minutes. Do not let it sit and boil without whisking it, it will burn.
As soon as it’s thick cut your heat. Add your noodles back to the pan and mix to coat. Add some green onions for garnish or red pepper flakes for spice.
I added jam and bacon bits as a fun topping. The sweetness from the jam cut into the thick cheese nicely.
You could also add veggies to this dish easily such as roasted broccoli and cherry tomatoes.
No it’s not a typo, I meant Wit and not WITH 😉 Have you ever had a wit beer? It’s a Belgian Wheat Ale and is brewed with at least 25% wheat malt. Often they are fruity and slightly lemony because it’s very common to use coriander and orange peel in the brewing process. This beer style used to be my favorite and now I lean towards sours, but truly I think it depends on the season I’m in as far as what beer style is my favorite.
Anyways…because of my love for breakfast food and this beer style I thought…why not combine them together? These pancakes will fill you up because they use whole wheat flour and oats (hello, fiber!) but still have a sweetness from the orange and the beer. They’re great with syrup added on top but truth be told, I don’t think they need much when they’re already so flavorful. I might put a little vanilla yogurt on top, fresh fruit, or just a little butter. Snag the recipe below!
Did you know that today is National Cheese Lover Day?? What a fantastic day to celebrate all things cheese AND be reminded that cheese offers a multitude of minerals & vitamins that are beneficial for your body, hello healthy bones! Cheese also has protein and fat in it, both of which are good for our body. You may agree with me when it comes to protein, but are you still on team fat-free or low-fat?
If you are I am not here to make you feel bad for that. Everyone has a right to choose the forms of foods they wish to eat them in. Sometimes I choose these options when it comes to dairy foods because I like the taste. Other times I choose full fat, whole milk forms because it’s more satisfying or works better in a recipe. Depends on my mood and what I’m cooking! Steve prefers the whole fat versions and a spouses’ opinion also plays a factor in the foods chosen to eat.
What we know from history is how fat used to be the enemy of weight loss and is sometimes still advertised as such. “You should choose low-fat/fat-free to save on calories so you can lose weight.” Sound familiar? Me too. But, as far as cheese goes…I’m not seeing science based evidence that relates eating cheese directly to chronic disease. You might see articles that cheese causes this or that symptom along with x, y, and z and certainly those who are lactose-intolerant/allergic may need to change the type of cheese they eat (or eliminate it).
But if anything is being shared more loud and clear right now, it’s that full fat versions of cheese/dairy may be more beneficial when it comes to a balanced diet because it is tastier and produces more satiety (filling) so you may eat less. In this study from five years ago, they found that consumption dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods did not support the idea that they directly contribute to obesity or cardiometabolic risk.
The thing is, you can’t feed a human only cheese and say that it caused obesity or heart disease. So when you see articles out there demonizing a food because a study found something (gasp!)…it’s not generally something that can be applied to EVERYONE. That’s the beauty and grime of science, but it’s why I find that a no-size-fits-all approach to educating people works well. Is it okay to choose low-fat cheese? Sure. Is it also okay to choose full fat cheese? Yep. What’s more important to me is your reason WHY. Are you punishing yourself with low-fat cheese because you were, “bad” over the weekend or are you picking one over the other based on personal preferences or heck, one was on sale?
I digress. What I really wanted to share with you for National Cheese Day (THIS SUNDAY! January 20th!) is a way to enjoy cheese in (maybe) a new way – with beer! Cheese not only pairs with beer well, they are similar in that they both get fermented and aged so they are primed and ready for us to drink/eat. Also, think about how many beer and cheese styles there are…SO many to choose from. So how can we pair them together?
Just like in the above rant about what type of cheese you choose, it can be pretty individual when it comes to pairing cheese with beer. I’ll make suggestions, but you’ll have to try them for yourself – and mix and match them too – to find what you like best.
**If you’re going to taste a bunch all together on a beer/cheese board though…make sure to consider your order. Don’t taste a super sharp cheddar first and jump to brie next…your palette likes it when you build it up gradually!**
A general tip from Steve when he lead a beer & cheese pairing (well, he’s led a good number of these!) is to go slow and take turns. First eat the cheese, what textures and flavors are you experiencing? Then try the beer, what’s happening now? Now try them together. It makes it more of an experiment in mindfulness and getting to know your taste buds which is pretty fun.
I’m choosing four beer styles to start so read on below to get an idea for what kind of cheese to pair with these styles. Remember to also mix and match, just because I say one pairs well doesn’t mean you can’t try all the cheese with all the beers!
Sours – Sour is a general term to describe these as the bacteria in the beer gives them their taste but the variety of yeast used will give them a funky or earthy (barnyard to me) quality. Sours can cut into a cheese that’s really rich and soft like goat cheese or brie so for me the two work well together.
Saisons – A saison will typically have fruity and citrus flavors which can go great with soft and semi soft cheese. Even something like a muenster or Monterey jack will help the fruity notes sing and the cheese fit in nicely.
IPAs – Since all IPAs are different, the cheese that works best might vary. An aged cheddar or gouda might pair well since both will have a pronounced bitterness and a little funk without being too over the top.
Stouts- Since these are popular more in the winter, try an imperial stout with blue cheese for a strong finish (i.e. don’t start with blue cheese when you’re trying multiple cheeses/beers!). We also liked smoked cheeses with stouts for a more robust and full flavor all around.
Try this sample cheese & beer pairing board:
The Oarsmen Berliner Weisse from Bell’s Brewery with goat cheese.
Cropduster IPA from Grand Armory with sharp cheddar
Farmhand (saison) from Brewery Vivant with brie.
Dragon’s Milk (BBA Imperial Stout) from New Holland Brewing with blue cheese.
**Tipsy tip: Have water & crackers nearby or on your fancy cheese plate so that you can break up the tastes your palette is experiencing & remember…everyone’s taste buds are different so go out there and try some out!**
Did you try the pairings above? Have you found any on your own that you love? Share’m with me below! OR take a photo and tag me on Instagram @The_beer_RD!
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas – and the variety of beers out right now reflect that too. We’re also pretty sure Santa wants us to leave out beer instead of just milk and cookies to spice up his night.
In all seriousness, I used to drink around the holidays just to drink and I don’t remember absolutely savoring or enjoying anything in particular. It was just apart of our traditional things we do. So when I begin examining the reasons I eat, I also started looking at my choice in drink too. I like cocktails and wine too, but craft beer is definitely my favorite and when I’m enjoying my favorite Christmas beers, I feel no guilt. I just enjoy them and find myself drinking them more mindfully rather than throwing back a bunch of crappy watered down beers (my opinion 😉 ).
So if you’re doing any last minute shopping or you need something for the BYOB to the party…this mixer sixer of Christmas beers is for you!
Prairie Artisan Ale, Christmas Bomb – Yeah it’s $9.00…but it’s worth every penny. Also, you’re paying $9.00 for a 13% beer that will light you up like a Christmas tree so it’s meant to be savored slowly. The aroma and the flavor favors cocoa, nutmeg and cinnamon. You may also get notes of vanilla in this boozy doozie of a beer.
Short’s Brewing, Juicy Tree – If you love the smell of spruce, juniper and cranberries and you want to taste Christmas in a beer…this is the beer for you. It’s an American IPA but I wouldn’t call it bitter.
Bell’s Brewery Winter White Ale – This is a good change up from a lot of stouts and barrel aged beers that we gravitate towards in the winter. It has Belgian ale yeast and a blend of malts giving it a clove and fruity aroma. I enjoy this beer more than their Christmas Ale which is a scotch ale, it’s just not my favorite style.
Roak Brewing Co, Little Saint Nick Cranberry Gose – I can’t really get enough cranberries this time of year. This beer is light, a bit tart and a little salty. Just the way I like’m.
Brewery Vivant’s, Your a Monster – It’s a gingerbread house/man in a pint of beer. You’re not going to find this unless you go to visit the brewery itself but I enjoy a good gingerbread cookie beer and this has to be a new favorite of mine.
Great Lakes Brewing Co, Christmas Ale – It’s a honey ale with ginger, cinnamon, and drinks well while wearing an ugly sweater according to their website! This is a classic Christmas beer that will make everyone sing along with the Christmas carols.
Mixer Sixers for Christmas or any holiday are a fun way to try different beers, keep your taste buds guessing and savor the flavors instead of crushing cans of the same ol’ thing. But hey if that’s your cup of tea or “pint of beer” then have at it! Do you have a favorite Christmas brew? Happy Holidays!
Last weekend Steve and I visited my cousin, aunt and uncle in the suburbs near Chicago. Whenever we travel, we try to find a new brewery to go to so we can try some new beers! We went to the town that Chad grew up in and he had no idea there was a brewery there. Lemont, Illinois was lightly covered in snow and the downtown was old-timey but charming and it is home to Pollyanna Brewing Company.
We got multiple flights so we could try as many beers as possible. Plus, sometimes even if I love a beer I like drinking just 5 ounces. After a while the carbonation catches up to me and since I do not drink to intentionally get buzzed I want to taste many things, in a smaller quantity.
We tried the majority of their beers from their new releases, seasonals to their year-round flagship beers.
Steve’s favorite – Vanilla Personal Chain Letter with 10.1% ABV Steve did sip a full pour of this after his flight. Not surprising that this is his favorite since vanilla is a favorite flavor of his.
Jessi’s favorite – Maple Fun Size – which was a milk stout with maple syrup, peanut, vanilla bean, cocoa nib and sea salt. Doesn’t that sound incredible? Though this beer was definitely sweet, it was so balanced and smooth that I felt I was drink a maple twix bar and it was heaven.
On a side note, I tried their cranberry orange berliner weiss which was one of the first berliner weiss beers I’ve had in a while that truly made me pucker! It tasted like a little touch of Christmas.
In short, we both felt this brewery made great beer. While their seating area wasn’t the biggest there was an outdoor patio (open in a warmer season haha!) that gives them more opportunity to have more people. Their servers were great and we’d visit them again anytime.
What’s your favorite brewery? Any breweries Steve and I HAVE to go to?
You can also share a brewery suggestion with me on Instagram, tag me @The_Beer_RD!
So I’m sitting here watching the Great British Baking Challenge’s newest season, which is my current fave show but it has been delaying me from writing this post! I just want to write and listen to what they’re doing at the same time, which doesn’t work. Last year, my mom surprised me at Christmas with Mary Berry’s baking book. Time to bust that out again as the holidays are upon us.
I thought you’d be interested in learning more about beer & food pairings. The two can in the most beautiful way compliment one another or they can be contrasting and leave you disappointed in both your food and drink. There is an art and science when it comes to pairing food and beer together. One of the first things to acknowledge is that everyone has different taste buds and will taste beer/food differently.
So to start our beer & food pairing, let’s talk about Thanksgiving! (disclaimer: Steve and I worked on this together as I’m still learning!) Many dinners start with a variety of appetizers throughout the mid-morning to afternoon. For a starting beer, you want to go for something lower in ABV and something that feels easy to drink. Gotta leave room for all the good food! I suggest starting with a fruited kettle sour. The acidity from these beers will get your mouth watering and your palette ready for the food to come.
During the meal you’re traditionally going to eat dense food like mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole. You want your drink to enhance this food and not try to compete with the flavors. Try a big, brown ale or if you do want to try a bit of a hop-forward beer try an amber ale. Steve went as far as to say a Scottish ale might be worth trying since they are very malt forward without being a heavy/full bodied beer.
Lastly and my absolute favorite part…the pumpkin or pecan pie! Here’s when to reach for your high ABV beer like a barley wine or a bourbon barrel aged (BBA) imperial stout. These are going to enhance the sweetness in your pies whether you sip/eat separately or try them together. The barley wine will be malty with tastes of dried fruit, toffee, and molasses sugar while a BBA will typically be a boozy and roasty beer with notes of vanilla and chocolate. Below is the Creme Brulee beer I’ll be enjoying from Southern Tier Brewing Co with my dessert.
Do you have any favorite beers to pair with your Thanksgiving food?? Feel free to ask questions if you have them but until then…
Now that it’s Autumn (and even though I can see it’s lightly snowing outside), we’ve likely started making the switch from desiring Summertime shandy’s and beers to cool us down, to darker ambers, increased mouthfeel, and a higher ABV (learn about what that means in my Craft Beer 101 post). So what kind of beers are traditional to Autumn? Let’s find out.
(Descriptions go in order from left to right in the photo)
Red ales – Red ales have never been my favorite, sorry reds! They use roasted malts to produce a sweeter flavor profile and the bitterness from the hops is low. They’re more medium bodied then a pale ale but they’re easy drinking.
Amber ales – This and the next beer make me think Autumn more than any others. Ambers are the colors of the changing leaves and compared to an ESB it’s going to be just a bit heavier bodied with a little more hops and malt.
Pumpkin Ales – A pumpkin beer is the first beer “style” I ever brewed with Steve! Naturally I wanted to brew a pumpkin beer first because I love all things pumpkin, but not all pumpkin beers are created equal. The can range from ambers to stouts, to IPAs…the main adjuncts are usually pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon, all-spice, etc. You’re going to get some that are sweet like pumpkin pie and some that overdo it on the spices.
Wet hopped IPAs – Wet hopped IPAs are released in Autumn because late August to September is harvest time for the hops. If you’re using hops within 24 hours of harvesting, you’re using them to wet hop a beer. A wet hopped beer is not meant to sit on your shelf and “age.” You want to enjoy the fresh flavor and aroma the hop cones bring before they begin to break down in your beer.
Oktoberfest (Märzen) -Märzen is the German word for March because this is when they begin to brew this style so it can be enjoyed during Oktoberfest. These beers are full-bodied lagers, bold malty flavor but finish clean/dry. The aroma is not from the hops added but rather from the malt. The color will range from gold to a light amber color.
These are the common beers to start seeing around this time of year and I think it’s partially why I love living in Michigan. Number one, we have some of the best beer in the U.S. Number two, we have all four seasons so these seasonal brews fit right in with the cooler temps.
I haven’t written about craft beer yet on this blog which is a little embarrassing (insert emoji of monkey hiding eyes!) I wasn’t sure how to deliver what it is I love about it and how I want to share that here. I’m learning my way and first, I want to share with you some 101 knowledge that can help you understand craft beer better.
First, the main ingredients in beer are:
Water – Beer is mostly water (which doesn’t mean you can rehydrate with beer! Haha) and so it’s essential that the water used in brewing beer is of quality. Quality means that the mineral content in your water is appropriate for your beer. It affects the pH of the beer which in turn can impact the taste of the beer.
Malt – Malt contributes to multiple things in your beer, color, body and sweetness. Malt is the process of malting barley or wheat for your beer. This involves soaking the barley, allowing it to germinate, and then stopping germination with heat. The amount of heating that barley malt gets is going to determine the type of beer you make.
Hops – I naively used to say, “I don’t like hoppy beers.” But while the majority of beers have hops, there are styles that do not have hops added to them. Hops are added to balance the sweetness from the grains during the brew process, but they do not make all beers bitter. This is what we (Steve and I) think a lot of people mean when they say they don’t like hoppy beers, overly bitter. But hops can add all kinds of flavors and aromas to beer.
Yeast – Without yeast, you wouldn’t have beer. Learning about yeast is where the microbiologist inside me comes out from college. There are many different strands of yeast but in short, when yeast is added to the brew it begins to eat/ferment the sugars (from all of the above) and it produces many things, but the main things to know about are carbon dioxide and alcohol.
Adjuncts – This is where unmalted grains like oats, rye, or rice come into the brewing process but also things like fruits, tea, spices, vegetables, donuts, bacon…haha the list goes on and on. These adjuncts I find are the reasons many people pick a beer to drink, especially if they don’t know what style they like. They see, citrus IPA…they think awesome! But the bitterness of that IPA might not be what you expected since it’s called citrus.
Other terms to help you know what I’m talking about when I write about beer:
ABV: alcohol by volume
IBU: international bittering units, the higher the number the more bitter the beer. Steve argues that this is not always true because everyone tastes bitterness differently.
Styles/ BJCP: The Beer Judge Certification Program this is the guideline for judging home brews and beers that are entered into contests/competitions by style. You can go to their site here to learn more.
Mouth-feel: The sensation inside your mouth you get when drinking beer or any liquid
Head: In the simplest way, it’s the foam on top of beer or the FOB foam on beer. The had is what gives you a visual, some people perceive a beer a certain way because of the head. The head on beer is from the proteins in the beer, these proteins are not found in wine, cider, or liquor which is why these products do not have a “head.”
Nitro: A higher amount of nitrogen goes into the solution of beer, when you have a nitro beer you’re pushing a gas mixture into the beer that is higher in nitrogen than normal. Nitro beers have small bubbles which gives you the soft and creamy sensation of this kind of beer.
Wet vs. dry hopped: Wet hopping is taking fresh hops/unprocessed hops and adding them to the brewing process, ideally within 24 hours of being harvested. When you wet hop a beer, you need to use more hops than if you were to use dried hops. Think of using more fresh herbs vs dried herbs in cooking. Beers that are wet hopped are going to give a different flavor profile. You’re going to see more of these in the Fall because this is when hops are harvested (usually in August). Dry hops go through a kilning process where they’re exposed to temperature for certain amounts of time. Then they are processed into different forms; pellets, whole leaf, powder, plugs, and extracts.
Body: Basically, people will explain the body of a beer being light, medium, or full bodied (and some in betweens). It’s the way it’s going to feel in your mouth, a big IPA or barely wine will sit in your mouth and you may describe it as heavy (full) bodied.
I’ll continue to add to this as needed to help you understand the different and complex elements in beer. It’s a science that I wish I would have gotten the chance to learn more about it in school. I hated science back then, but now I appreciate it so much more in every beer I drink!
What questions do you have about beer? Ask away! I love hearing about home brewing and new beer flavors you’ve tried, share them with me on Instagram @The_Beer_RD.