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Archive for the ‘Beer’ Category

I spotted pint bottles of McNeill’s Firehouse ale in the Co-op today, and grabbed one.  This ale brings back memories, because it was one of my first draft beers. Definitely the best.  The brewery is in my high school hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont, where it is served in its own well-resepected run-down-floorboarded pub just off Main Street.  Firehouse is a dark amber ale, pretty hoppy but not overly.  Flavorful, a pleasure to drink with some salty green olives, sharp cheese, or just some bar mix.  It’s also conducive to déjà vu for me because it was what Peter and I drank on our first New Year’s Eve together.  Neither of us is one for sentimentality about holidays, but this one was just good fun.  After having dinner with my parents at home, we looked into The Marina, a bar on the West River, but it was just as I expected: crowded with all of the jocks and hometown girls who’d already married and had children.  We decided to go downtown.  It was colder than cold—around zero.  I remember, I was wearing not just a thick wool sweater but a thick wool turtleneck sweater.  At McNeill’s, there were a few small groups of locals and Marlboro College types sitting around at little tables, which were home-crafted just like the brews.  I was twenty-one, but Peter was a year younger.  I went up to the bar attempting to be cool as a local (cucumber).  “Two pints of Firehouse?” Not a look or a word questioning my legitimacy as a beer-purchasing adult.  It was New Years Eve.  We sipped our first pints happily.  They were probably playing The Band.  We started a game of darts.  Cheers to ’97!

mcneills

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Whew—I can finally relax.  I’m sitting on the deck in Vermont. The sun is shining, the Bloody Brook is rushing, Jack is loading a dump truck in the sand box, and a hummingbird is buzzing by.  This is nice.  Yesterday, Tuesday, was spent in buses, planes, cars, and waiting areas.  Monday, the moving van came, the house was emptied and then scrubbed from baseboards to ceiling vents.  I’ve never cleaned so hard!

But the real event I’ve been itching to address was Sunday night: the great picnic party at Matt and Christina’s which included a power outage, ice cream churned by hand, newborn rabbits, homebrew, a tree climb, and two antique MGs, to name just a few of the highlights.
tree

J & P

This was a real homegrown meal.   To begin with, there were simmered shell-on peanuts, along with a plateful of carrots and radishes from Red Root Farm for dipping in hummus.  We were standing around the table talking, eating these small bits, and sampling Matt’s dark, hoppy ale, when he brought in a bowl full of sliced, spice-rubbed local pork that he’d just grilled over a heap of smoking hickory coals.
Matt

And that wasn’t the only hunk of pork or the only grill.  There were two other steel buckets serving for grills, on which Matt was cooking long skewers of zucchini and summer squash slathered with olive oil and herbs, and rabbit—the most local of the items in this dinner, since it came from the back yard, where its kin still lolled in their cages, and where one of them had just given birth to her first litter.  He mentioned something about venison sausage too, but I don’t think I saw that….
Emma

rabbitThis was a great dinner not just for the company and its easy, rolling-along tempo, but also for the simplicity and bounty of the food that Matt and Christina spread on the table.  While he manned the grills, she was in the kitchen (where there was no electricity, Auburn having just been whipped up in an hysterical thunderstorm) stuffing poblano peppers with chipotle-spiced ground beef and its alternative for the poco picante palates, cheesy black beans.  She also mixed a quick peanut sauce so that one rabbit option was satay.  Others brought cornbread, salad, and the always idiosyncratic no-knead bread.  I brought wine from Spain.  It can’t all be local!
food

The kids started churning the lemon-almond ice cream as the sun went down.

round and round

round and round

getting sweaty

getting sweaty

Daddy's taking over

Daddy's taking over

Eventually, after some serious help from the grown-ups, we could spoon big, soft dollops on top of Emma’s blueberry tart.  It went too fast for me to take a representative picture…
i c

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Aside from the closets of home-brewing friends, where can we get good local ale around here?  (Home-brewing friends? Shhh!  It’s illegal(!) to brew beer in Alabama.)

Visit Fine Wine and Beer by Gus, next to the UPS store, for semi-local Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale on tap, which you can buy in a freshly poured half-gallon jug.  This is the nuttiest of brown ales because it is actually made with roasted pecans.  Brewed by Lazy Magnolia Brewery, in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, this ale is best just off the tap—not too chilly, not too fizzy—with salty snacks and pickles.

Here’s how the Lazy Magnolians describe Southern Pecan:

Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale is the first beer in the world, to our knowledge, made with whole roasted pecans.  The pecans are used just like grain and provide a nutty characteristic and a delightful depth to the flavor profile. This beer is very lightly hopped to allow the malty, caramel, and nutty flavors shine through.  The color is dark mahogany.  Southern Pecan won a Bronze Medal in the 2006 World Beer Cup in the Specialty Beer category.

Another semi-local brewery I like is Terrapin, in Athens, Georgia.  I like all the ales I’ve tried, and would love to taste the one they call “Oak Aged Big Hoppy Monster.”  About their coziness with their city they say, “both Athens and Terrapin have a great love of music, are committed to the environment, and practice living life to the fullest.”  OK, I’ll buy it, because the beer is good.

Terrapin Logo
(By the way, Gus also sells local wine, but despite my love of wine, I haven’t…well, dared to try it.)

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