Two drunk nerds take on a beer tasting.
With living in Michigan, sometimes finding the finer things is difficult. Much of Michigan is rural in nature and spirit. Yes that is a fancy way a sayin we be rednecks. Now Michigan ranks number 5 in total number of breweries versus the other states and I dare you to find any other rank just as high for the state of Michigan (outside of unemployment numbers sadly.)
But we do have a small oasis in our area. A smallish restaurant, Wrought Iron Grill, that is trying to bring quality products and service to the area and trying to use as many local as they can find. They also have specialty nights, beer and wine tastings and similar.
We have been going to the beer tastings for a few months now and everytime is getting better and better. Last night one could argue to be the best so far. We were treated to brew from the New Holland Brewing company.
Mad Hatter IPA with Spiced Nuts.
Eric: I love Mad Hatter. It is just a very well rounded IPA. Nothing within MHIPA stands out to me. It is a great marriage of flavors. You are greeted with lovely hop scent, the first flavor is hops, the body is smooth for me just on this side of lighter, and the hops is carried all the way through. The hops though is never overpowering. This IPA isn’t probably going to turn the heads of the extreme hopheads, but that is fine because its simplicity wins here.
(sidenote: I do believe that Mad Hatter was one of the first IPAs I ever tasted. I remember back into the days of college and I used to buy of lot of my alcohol by names or packaging. Yes I didn’t have taste buds back then. But Mad Hatter was one of the first stepping stones for me to learn about what is good and why bland is bad.)
The pairing with the simple spicy nuts was great. The spice was part of a glaze for the nuts and it had a staying power. It really “convinced” you that you needed to drink that pint of IPA sitting in front of you.
Dan: As I am writing this 24 hours after the fact, plus being an in the moment kind of guy I’ll be going over my notes which were my gut reaction to the beer and food at the time. I shall defer to Eric when it comes to the technical aspects, he is the real expert after all and I’m just a dude who likes to eat drink and be merry. So let’s begin…
New Holland is the number 2 brewer in Michigan behind Bell’s in volume so in my book they’re a mass produced beer ..not a bad thing.. So when I said I wish other beers from large brewers was like this, I meant brewers like the large national brewers should produce a consistently mild yet full flavor beer. I’ve had Mad Hatter on more than a few occasions and it’s always had that great hop smell and mild refreshing feel followed up by just the right amount of bite at the end. To pair it with spicy food is the way to go but I would have gone with Mexican over the nuts we were served, but like a good tamale the nuts delivered the burn that the Mad Hatter washed away as you’d expect.. Except the one nut I got that I swear burned a hole from my throat straight through to the other end.
Golden Cup Saison with Warm goat cheese over arugula w/ Chardonnay vinaigrette
Dan: The first thing I noticed with the second selection was the nose, very earthy. It reminds me of an old hay barn but it went beyond this introducing new scent with each additional sniff layering upon the previous some standing out more than others such as the smell of flour and sweet yeast. Drinking Golden Cap was a joy, I can only describe the beer as being soft in the mouth like a fresh dinner roll, it was sweet and flowery in flavor and just worked with the goat cheese and arugula, I would’ve taken seconds of this combo.
Eric: Golden Cup was quite bitter, but in that proper bitter ale sense. It had just a hint of spice to it, pepper-like. The color was lovely a nice golden honey color and in mid mouth I dare say I tasted a hint of a very mild honey also. This beer just made me think of a late July day here in Michigan, a high sun with a nice warm breeze.
Now this pairing was delicious and something I would love to eat on a regular basis. The warm goat cheese was light breaded in panko bread crumbs and slightly toasted. It was again that feeling of a late summer warm day, hearty and earthy. Add the vinaigrette and its bite with the sour and it made everything else seem that much brighter. The flavors just grew.
Ichabod Pumpkin Ale with Fall Risotto.
Eric: I love me a pumpkin ale. I love the spicy, the malty, the sweet. But you know what really makes a pumpkin ale for me. Pumpkin. Too many pumpkin ale are short on that flavor, that body. I even attempted a pumpkin ale last fall and I liked how the pumpkin part came out but I shorted it on spices. New Holland does not have either of these failures. Ichabod is a nice blend of spicy with the pumpkin body. But unlike trying to drink a pumpkin pie, it has a lighter body. Too many other pumpkin ales come across as too thick for my likes.
The risotto was simple and it was a good pairing in that it allowed the beer to shine. It wasn’t anything that stood out but sometimes that is exactly what you need, that warm safe fall feeling.
Dan: I was hit almost instantly with the rich malty nose of this ale as soon a the glass was put in front of me. now I’m more of a hops guy and avoid malty drinks but I’m glad I tried this. While drinking I noticed a slight oaky flavor along side the spices with every thing in balance nothing over powering the other. The risotto was very sweet almost too much or at least I thought until I put the two together, the pumpkin ale complemented the flavors of the risotto and cut the sweetness practically perfect in every way. Add a spicey sausage to the mix and I would’ve called it dinner.
Envious with Grill Mahi Mahi topped with an Envious raisin sauce
Dan: Oh damn! Awesome nose! Is was I wrote in my notes, I may have had the others concerned due to my reaction. I could not stop smelling this beer, fruity, malty, smokey it was a very complex party going on in that glass and when I finally tasted it.. well I can only imagine that was what a good LSD trip is like I could taste everything that I was smelling all being together in some sort of complex love in dance. Needless to say all I remember of the Mahi Mahi was it was good with a mild flavor.
Eric: Honestly when I first looked at the list for the tasting, this is the beer that caught my eye. I needed to try this. I need to try this again and probably again after that. At first you are greeted with slight smokey, char flavor. Best way I can attempt to say how this is it is like a smoked ribs how on the end they are usually a little blacken but are underlined with sweet, like a caramel. Once the beer was out of the mouth, you are left with a flavor that I can best describe as an adult version of a cherry cordial candy that you get at Christmas time. I know they say this beer has raspberries in it, but I didn’t get raspberries. It more hinted at cherry to me. Take that nearly sickeningly sweet cordial, tone it down, add a savory flavor and you have this beers after taste. It was complex.
Now the fish….just wow. The fish was grilled to perfection and the sauce played with all the flavors wonderfully. You had the grill flavor pairing with the char flavor hidden in the beer. The sweet malty played with the golden raisins added to the sauce. The sauce also gave a woody flavor to it all like the fish could have been smoked. I didn’t see anything but smiles all around me with this dish.
El Mole Ocho w/ Cincinnati Chili
Eric: Ok, I will admit I have had el Mole Ocho before. I will say again what I said after the first time I had it. I am happy I tried this beer. This is a beer that everyone should try at least once. It is something you need to experience. But el Mole Ocho is not my favorite. I am not a huge fan of mixing the flavors of coffee, chocolate and spice and having it come off in a huge way. I do love mixing these flavors but I then like to keep them subtle.
This beer is something I want to experiment with though in making sauces and similar. I think this could be to kill for if you reduced it added a bit more chocolate and use it to top a dessert with vanilla ice cream.
The dish was a chili served over spagetti noodles. The chili they choose to use was a very sweet, brown sugar taste with a hint of cinnamon. I would hazard the guess it was porked based. The beer meshed so well with the food. The sweet is what this beer needs to tame it.
Dan: I must disclose here that I had my doubts about this one, it wasn’t a new beer to me and my last experience with it wasn’t a very good one. I’m glad to say that this time around WA different. Pairing it with the pasta and chili works. The beer has an odd smokey malt scent with a bitter chocolate taste that somehow turns sicky sweet that’s suddenly crushed by the smoke, crazy. together with the Cincinnati chili saved this beer for me together they eliminated the less desirable aspects of each. A nifty trick with the beer, take a swift drink by passing your tongue and letting it fall on the back of your throat… yes a spicy burn like you just ate a hot chili.
Charkoota Rye with pulled pork sliders on rye.
Dan: This rye will remind you of an old cabin in the woods where the men folk went, smokey smokey smokey you got your hardwood char in the nose and I swore at one point I had some smoked whitefish set in front on me. I’ve had some single malt scotches that didn’t smoke this complex. I found it matched really well with the pulled pork but could see this as a very versatile beer as far as food pairing. I can see myself enjoying this in the summer at backyard cookouts.
Eric: This like drinking a BBQ. No not some BBQ sauce but like a properly smoked seasoned bit of pork. The smokey flavor comes on quick but leaves quickly too leaving you with a nice clean feel in your mouth. If you get a chance to try this beer, make sure you pick up some cheese too. This beer just screams to be pair up with some nice smoked Gouda, a very sharp cheddar, or even an aged swiss.
The slider was tasty and it was near perfect as it just carried the smoky pork flavor along. The swiss atop of it carried along my idea of how this beer needs to be pair up with other cheeses.
Night Tripper Imperial Stout with Ice Cream Pie
Eric: Ok by this time of the night I was feeling the beer quite well and my notes got very unique, but allow me to share, but only they can give you my impression of this beer.
“God you’re hot, lets grind, *back to her place*, lets screw, *its sweet and fun*, *next morning* that was fun, time for home”
It seems I liked this beer a lot. It was rich, very smooth and luscious tasting.
Then came the ice cream pie…….oh my god. So you have an oreo crust. Very tasty. You have vanilla bean ice cream. Very Tasty. You have fudge syrup. Very Tasty. And in the middle….IN THE MIDDLE. BACON. The bacon was paired up with a spice, a burn. This stuff was ambrosia. You had sweet, savory, salty, spice. Paired with the beer the vanilla ice cream was a like your favorite blanket, so soft and smooth.
Dan: It’s no secret, I enjoy a good Stout and this is one of them, most imperials lean towards the bitter side but watch out this guy will get you in trouble with it’s sweet coffee nose and a flavor so full of subtleties I honestly can’t remember everything that was going on in that glass. It really works as a desert drink with the icecream cake that carried its own surprises.
Overall I must agree with Eric each month The Wrought Iron Grill host these they just get better.