Friday, September 28, 2012

Bier Her! Bier Her! Oder Ich Fall Um!

"Das Leben is bezaubernd; man muß es nur durch die richtige Brille sehen."
~German toast

While most Americans think beer, beer, and more beer when they hear the word Oktoberfest, the tradition actually began with a wedding.

A big wedding.
On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (he would one day become King Ludwig I, grandfather of "Mad" King Ludwig II, who built Schloß Neuschwanstein) married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen.  A fan of the Olympic games, Ludwig invited basically everyone (it helps to be the crown prince; budgeting isn't as much of an issue) to partake in the weeklong festivities in front of the city gates, including horse racing.  In honor of Princess Therese, the fields that held the festivities were renamed the Theresienwiese (eventually shortened to Wiesn).
The Fest was so popular that it became a yearly event, which evolved into what we know as Oktoberfest.
Of course, Bavaria is home to great beers, thanks in great part of the Reinheinsgebot of 1516 (you can read me wax poetic about the Gebot and other Bavarian Bier wonders here), so it's not a surprise that beer stands soon popped up on the Wiesn.
Today, Oktoberfest begins at the end of September and goes into October, and millions of people flock to Bavaria to join in the celebrations.
But if you can't afford a plane ticket to München, you can always celebrate at home.  Just remember to raise a glass to Ludwig and Therese.

Hopefully you've been celebrating our Beer Week festivities, which, yes, was totally scheduled to coincide with the first week of Oktoberfest.  You'll have to figure out your own festivities next week.  I'd recommend checking out the ponies.  Ludwig would like that.

In my homage to Ludwig and Therese, I opted to start at a favorite location that has its own long history in the Tempe area: Four Peaks Brewery.  The building that now houses the brewery was once a creamery, and the red brick stands out against the stucco that surrounds it today (check out the website for old and current photos - you'll love them).
If you live in the Valley, you are likely familiar with the two beers that Four Peaks bottles and has made available in stores: 8th Street Ale, an English brown ale, and Kilt Lifter, their best-selling Scottish style ale that is intended to be similar to those ales brewed in Edinburgh.  In fact, Kilt Lifter is so popular that the October issue of Phoenix Magazine allows readers a tour of the brewing process.
But while I adore Kilt Lifter - so much so that I managed to ship Megan an entire six-pack a few months ago - when I go to Four Peaks, there is only one beer for me: the Arizona Peach Ale.
I first experienced it when The Husband and I went to Teakwoods for lunch a few months ago.  Teakwoods is one of the local restaurants that serves Arizona Peach Ale on tap, and I was surprised that The Husband ordered it, as he doesn't tend to enjoy "fruity" beers.
"It's not really fruity," he said.  "Here.  Take a sip."
Fateful words.
I know, sexy pic.
Try not to be jealous.
Before you take a big, fat gulp like you see me doing here, you need to take a moment and bring the beer up to your nose to take in the aroma.  Immediately, you'll be transported from wherever you are to a peach orchard.  It's ridiculous, really.  Fresh Arizona peaches.  In your beer.  It's almost mesmerizing.  You get the flowery sweetness that is identical to the perfume of a freshly plucked peach.  But the beer is anything but sweet.  While you can taste the peach on the back end, the beer is a light, clean, and refreshing ale that is perfect for the Arizona heat.  The peach just finishes each sip off so smoothly, and perhaps the only aspect of "sweet" that there might be is that there is no bitterness from beginning to end.  There is no syrupy aftertaste or heaviness in the fruitiness of this Arizona Peach Ale.  It's just as perfectly accessorized as Coco Chanel.
So in the last few weeks, I have found almost every excuse possible to trek over to Tempe in order to have a dinner date or a "late lunch" at Four Peaks.
Because the beer is good, and so is the food.  Get the salmon BLT.  You're welcome.
While the brewery is in the heart of Tempe, right by ASU, you'd think that it would be a crowded, college hangout.  But in all actuality, there are only a handful of students that you might see; the regular crowd will include families and professionals, all competing for a parking spot close to the front door.  There is room for young kids, as long as they don't sit at the bar, so the atmosphere is welcoming for anyone who walks in.

I love the industrial-red brick combo on the inside.
Sorry, though, that all my patio snaps were too dark to use;
it's quite lovely out there.
Unfortunately, until The Husband catches on to my hints about the growler of Arizona Peach that I think should live in our fridge and/or the brewery decides that I need to have six-packs available to me at my local grocery store, I have to get my fix at Four Peaks (I know - first world problem right here).  In the meantime, I'll be buying that six-pack of Kilt Lifter.  And using it in All The Things.

Like a German-style spicy mustard.

And ale-soaked sweet potato oven fries.  Served with said spicy mustard and bratwurst.  Because Ludwig and Therese would have wanted it that way.

And, because no course of a meal should ever be without beer, a maple-ale frozen custard for dessert.

Let's look a little more closely, shall we?
Basically, when we planned Beer Week, I had originally only intended to rave about Four Peaks and their Arizona Peach ale, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to take the opportunity to play around with the beer, even if it wasn't the beer I go to Four Peaks to drink.
Having had great luck (and tons of positive feedback) with the Guinness mustard I made for St. Patrick's Day (a.k.a. The Great Brisket Freakout of 2012), I figured that using Kilt Lifter in a mustard would be a cinch, although I wanted something a little more spicy and closer to the mustards that I loved when I lived in Regensburg as a student.  Good thing I found this recipe from Serious Eats to play around with and tweak thus:

Spicy German-Style Kilt Lifter Ale Mustard
(adapted from Serious Eats)
  • 1/3 cup each yellow and brown mustard seeds (I've found that I prefer the 50-50 combo of the two different seeds over having a greater percent of the yellow seeds)
  • 1/2 cup organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (it should have "the mother" in it, although try not to use it in the mustard)
  • 1 cup Kilt Lifter, divided into 1/2-cup measurements
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric (this is what gives mustard its beautiful yellow color)
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
Drink any remaining Kilt Lifter once you've measured out the cup needed in the recipe.
Combine the mustard seeds, the vinegar, and 1/2 cup of the ale; refrigerate at least overnight (or, until you have a free second).
Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of the ale and all other ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until just boiling.  Remove from heat and cool slightly (I would recommend doing this about 30 minutes before you plan to mix everything together).
In a blender, combine the mustard seeds and their liquid with the liquid from the saucepan.  Puree until smooth, although the brown seeds will remain solid.  Transfer to a pretty jar and refrigerate until you are ready to slather it over a properly made bratwurst (read: not national chain) or dunk some pommes frites into it.

And speaking of pommes frites...
All you have to do here is cut up some sweet potatoes (or any potatoes, I guess), soak them in Kilt Lifter for 15-20 minutes (you may have to toss it a few times), drain them, toss them in olive oil and seasoning, and then cook on a VERY well-oiled cookie sheet, into a 425° oven for 30-40 minutes, tossing at least once.  If you are using sweet potatoes, make sure that, unlike me, you are careful not to let them burn.  Or stick to the cookie sheet (my definition of "very" well oiled sheet was insufficient).
As a note, since I was using sweet potatoes, I thought we'd need a salty, savory combo, so my seasoning of choice was Bacon Salt, and I'd recommend that you do the same.

The above, of course, are best served with bratwurst, freshly grilled and topped with the mustard, caramelized onions, sauerkraut, and leek relish, and eaten while worshipping at the shrine of college football.
Go, Devils!

But as much as I love College GameDay and cheering on my beloved Devils while horking down ridiculous amounts of pub grub and washing it down with a favorite local beer (I mean, HONESTLY, what compares to that), this week, the star was the dessert.
As you might have figured out, I love maple syrup.  If you hadn't, now you know.  So of course I needed to find an ice cream recipe that combined maple and beer.
It turns out that I am not the first person to think that this is The Best Idea For Ice Cream Ever.  Not like I was surprised.  At first, I found a gingerbread ice cream recipe that I figured I could use, swapping the maple syrup for the molasses and omitting ALL the spices, but then I stumbled across this fabulous recipe for Peak Organic Maple Oat Ale Walnut ice cream over at Drink Craft Beer (bookmarked) that I knew was Perfect.
Of course, I used Kilt Lifter instead of the Peak Organic, so at first, I was a little nervous.  A Scottish style ale is totally different than an ale made with oats and maple syrup, and who knew if it would work in the same way?
Well, it did.
The reduction of the Kilt Lifter made me even more nervous, as the beer has a smoky aspect to it, which really came out when it was reduced from 22 ounces to 1/2 cup.  I mean, wow.  But what also came out was an almost coffee-like bitterness that was fantastic, I mean FREAKING FANTASTIC when combined with the sweet creaminess of this recipe.
Which, I should point out, is actually a frozen custard recipe, due to the addition of the egg yolks and the higher percentage of fat (thanks to the cream and half-and-half called for in the recipe instead of cream and milk).
OK, so basically, what you need to know is this: the Kilt Lifter really made this recipe.  I'm sure it would have been really good without the beer.  But it was really, really, REALLY good WITH the beer.  Since it was a creamier custard, and the maple syrup so sweet, the coffee-like bitterness of the ale reduction made a wonderful finish to each bite.  I think that without the beer, it honestly would have been too cloying.  With the beer, it was incredible.
Since we had plans to go to a dinner party at the house of some friends, I opted to take the custard as part of the dessert offering.
Now, aside from the fact that I had to share with several other people, this was a fabulous idea, as the other half of the dessert was a homemade tiramisu.  And since tiramisu is made with espresso, it was a slam-bam knockout combination.

I'm just glad that there was leftover custard that I was able to bring home and continue to sneak by the spoonful straight from the freezer.
All right, Four Peaks.  You already serve your delicious stoutamisu, made with your Oatmeal Stout.  Now I have the perfect accompaniment for it.  You're welcome.
(Now, could you please sell Arizona Peach Ale in bottles or cans?  Pretty please?)

So now... in case you missed any of the wonderful Beer Week posts, please make sure you check them out.  Do it for Ludwig and Therese.
  • Kirsten (Comfortably Domestic) kicked off the week with an amazing biography of a friend of hers who just happens to be a home brewer taking that passion and turning it into a livelihood.  I'm making The Husband read this one carefully.
  • Jeanne (Inside NanaBread's Head) offered an incredible dark chocolate espresso stout cake topped with a caramel and Kahlua whipped cream (I KNOW, RIGHT?????)
  • Kat (Tenaciously Yours,), who also writes for Minnesota Beer Activists, made me want to move to Minnesota even more with her overview of Gasthof's Oktoberfest.  There's something for everyone here.
  • Madeline (Munching in the Mitten), my former student, made a pumpkin beer bread, perfect for those crisp autumn days that we don't get here in Arizona.
  • Anne (From My Sweet Heart) made beer pretzel caramels - can I get a yum yum?
  • Lauren (Climbing Grier Mountain) made a pale ale shrimp po' boy that may actually convince my husband to move to Denver in order to get closer to it.
  • Beka (Kvetchin' Kitchen), who is the newest addition to our reindeer games, jumped right in with a review of the Outlander brewery, which I MUST check out when I'm in Seattle next.
  • Megan (Wanne Be a Country Cleaver), who knows the sweet, sweet taste of Kilt Lifter already, made my German heart go pitter pat with her schnitzel and dumplings.
  • Mads (La Petite Pancake) whipped up some beer battered shrimp tacos that I am dying for right now.
  • Carrie (Bakeaholic Mama) is helping finish off Beer Week tomorrow by opting to focus on a cider (an early American staple) recipe with her Woodchuck sweet potato bisque.
  • Katie (The Hill Country Cook) joins up with us again to share her review of the Double Horn Brewery.  TOOT TOOT!
  • And Kirsten is back tomorrow too, wrapping up the week with a black and tan brownie that my own black and tan girl would kill to get her grubby paws on if chocolate weren't so deadly to dogs. 
And lastly, because we can't celebrate a wedding without music, fill your glass one last time and get down to my favorite German beer song (you can find the lyrics here if you want to sing along, which I know you do).

And one more thing - please don't forget the Life For Lily Virtual Run next Friday through Sunday.  Your steps (you don't have to run - don't worry!) can make the biggest difference for a little girl fighting something harder than any of us can ever imagine.  So find your favorite kicks, sign up, and make a donation.  Your heart will never regret any of it.


  1. That mustard is making my mouth water. Seriously, that photo of the mustard with the fry in it is killing me. And when The Complete Package sees this maple ale ice cream concoction, I'm pretty sure he'll bust Christine out of the pantry and fire her up. Oh, how I love that ice cream maker. Have to say, Allison - I'm kinda jealous that Megan got that 6-pack of Kilt Lifter. We have a HUGE liquor store in Houston called Spec's. I'm going to have to call them & see if they carry it or beg them to order it. I'm fully prepared to do either. Awesome recipes, Allison! I think Beer Week was your niche. :) Oh, and PS - loved the beer song!

    1. Thanks, Jeanne! I love that your ice cream maker is named Christine; surprisingly, ours doesn't have a name, but I'm worried she won't last too much longer; the custard was a bit much for her. I can try to ship out more Kilt Lifter - I'm always happy to share its deliciousness. I actually made plans for DECEMBER with some colleagues to head there with them when they are in town for our next meeting. And we're all really overly excited. I hope that Spec's carries it! And yes, TCP needs to make this. He will love it. I will be sure to have it on the menu at The Compound. Beer Week was fun - hopefully we can do another round at some point! :)

  2. How can you not love a beer named Kilt Lifter? I wonder if they sell it next to the Leg Humper Ale?

    1. DYING!!!!!!!!!
      Actually, there is another awesome local brewery here called Sleepy Dog, and all their beers are dog-themed (I like the Red Rover ale, but there is also Wet Snout Milk Stout - say that three times! - etc.). I think they may have something similarly tacky! :)