Monday, February 21, 2011

February Big Beers Flight

David Copperfield's has had some truly wonderful stuff on tap these past few months. Craft brewers have been rocking the winter and "big" beer categories for a while now - and we got to taste not only fresh offerings but vintage brews as well, from 2009! So a couple of weeks ago it was impossible to resist the multiple temptations on offer, and we ordered a flight of five and two pints besideds.

Wexford Irish Cream Ale was not a big beer or a winter warmer. It was at least an ale, of sorts. Blandly easy to drink, smooth, malty and light on hops.

Likewise, the Smuttynose Baltic Porter was surely a porter. A textbook porter: smooth, dark, ligth body, the usual coffee/toffee notes, sweetish finish. A perfectly nice porter if you are in the mood for one without much challenge.

Stone Lukcy Bastard was surely a Stone brew. You could tell with one sniff, you thought you were settling into a nice half grapefruit for breakfast. Reputedly an oaked blend of Arrogant Bastard and Double Bastard, it does have that malty oomph that makes Stone superior to Rogue if you think beer superior to citrus peel. There was really nothing memorable about it.

Stone did much better with its Imperial Russian Stout 2009. Hops were pretty much absent from this offering, as one would expect, in lieu of deep rich caramel and chocolate flavors and a few welcome coffee notes. The brew was dense, rich, winy, deep, a bit sharp on the tongue, really a perfect example of the style. Wonderful stuff.

Founder's Breakfast Stout 2009 was quite interesting, and as Spouse ordered a pint of it we had much to contemplate. The notes say it is brewed with an "abundance of flaked oats, bitter and sweetened imported chocolates, Sumatra and Kona coffee." The coffee notes were actually a bit muted for all that. There's a light coffee aroma, mingled with rich malt. Strong fizz, light body. The coffee and chocolate flavors blend nicely without tasting burnt, and there's a clean, sweetish finish. No hop bitterness to speak of. I didn't miss it.

Unibroue is one of my favorite breweries, and I will always gladly try whatever they make. Trois Pistoles was an absolute treat. As an abbey-style strong dark ale, it's still (no fizz) and dense. The aroma was full with sweet rich fruit and malt. The apple/apricot fruit flavors shaded ever so slightly into bubblegum esters on the finish, but the stronger essences were cherries and port. Seriously! In just an abbey dark ale! Lovely with food, too. I've since had a full serving of this brew and loved it even more.

Finally, there was Smuttynose Gravitation. Unlike the porter, there was nothing else to really compare this to. This powerful brew (12% abv! that's wine!) is a Belgian Quad made extra-oomphy by the addition of "200 pounds of raisin puree per batch." The nose is fruity (it better be!) with distinct raisin and prune notes. The body is oddly light, nearly porter-like. I found distinct concord grape, cherry and berry flavors mixed in with the rich caramel malts. The finish was clean, a bit sweet and tart. Spouse complained of an unpleasant undertaste, that I either did not notice or mind. I would like to try it again some night before an hour of eating and drinking caused congestion to foul up my finer taste abilities.

Some fantastic beers out there. Cheers!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Knitting Up Rhinebeck 2008: Silk Bubbles

Silk Bubbles Yarn

I have a thing for novelty yarns, even if I seldom make anything from them. I have a whole basket of fantastically colored or amazingly textured yarns that are mostly for inspiration. Some of them will eventually become mini-scarves, or trim on a sweater collar & cuffs, but others well I dunno. They are For Pretty. For petting. For gazing at. Each luscious skein called to me in the yarn store, and I heeded the call.

I really tried to buy "project" yarns at Rhinebeck, not petting/gazing yarns, if only because their cost was high compared to most LYS impulse purchases. Then I found this stuff.

A Touch of Twist had mostly sort of plain yarns, at pretty low prices. I got a sweater's worth of black alpaca, and also a nice wool blend in lace weight for a shawl. Then I fell for Silk Bubbles.

Slinky nubby multicolored silk yarn, that cheap? That pretty? That...fingering weight?

After my usual long delay I wound the skeins and made a swatch. It was...limp. What was I going to do with it? I figured, scarf! Which is my default item I guess. The stuff was too thin for a hat, not stretchy enough for anything else. So I cast on and started knitting.

I remembered why I have only ever liked knitting wool boucle. (Don't get me started on Lion Brand Boucle, which is the NASTIEST stuff I ever tried to crochet. Only slightly friendlier as a knit fabric. Ugh!) Wool boucle (like my favorite black cardigan) is bouncy and stretchy, and even though you inevitably keep sticking your needles into the loops of fiber instead of the loops of yarn, it's easy to recover and keep going. Not so silk boucle. Oh no indeed. It was like knitting with linen or mercerized cotton, only without any give whatsoever, and half-blinded by nubbins. It was slow. It was frustrating. It felt lovely in my hands, but it took ages and ages to do a row.

I got as far as shown in the picture, and I stopped. After 4 inches of teensy tiny stitches I called it quits. I tossed it in the Hibernation Pile and forgot about it.

Now...well, I'm trying to record all my Rhinebeck mania, so I found it and I'll give it another go. Doubling the yarn might help, and there should be enough for a small Moebius scarf like the one I made from the Maple Creek silk blend. I'll give it a try this weekend. We'll see.